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Beloved Nurse's Retirement Prompts Massive Viral Video-Inspired Project

More than 200 staff at Middlesex Hospital marked the impending departure of its longtime vice president of nursing with a Today Show-inspired lip-synched video.

The staff at Middlesex Hospital might well be on its way to worldwide recognition with a seven-minute two-take YouTube video — involving hundreds of employees lip-synching the Black Eyed Peas hit “I’ve Got a Feeling.”

If the premise sounds familiar, that’s because it is. It re-enacts the November 2010 Today Show staff lipdub video, which itself is based on a viral video from September 2009 made by 172 communication students at the University of Quebec at Montreal.

The inspiration for this video, however, is the impending retirement of one very special lady — vice president of nursing Colleen O. Smith, who will depart in August after working for 25 years at Middlesex Hospital.

“I was blown away. I was so surprised,” Madison resident Smith said, recalling the May 12 video screening at the annual nurses’ meeting. “It was one of the best moments of my life and I’ll always cherish it.”

Smith knew she would be honored at the annual meeting, but never imagined hundreds of people were working for months on such a massive goodbye gift.

"I thought they'll do a little tribute, maybe a little roast," she said. "I figured something was going on."

With already 5,170 hits on YouTube, this remarkable project was coordinated by heart care unit nurse manager Nancy LaMonica, who was instrumental in pulling it together. She's in the final minutes of the video, at the 5:20 mark.

“She put loads of time and effort into it,” Smith said.

"Nothing seems too big to me. Nothing is impossible," LaMonica said.

Dustin Schultz, owner/director at The Union Productions in Guilford, was approached about a month ago by LaMonica to create a Today Show-inspired, walk-through video of the hospital as a farewell to Smith.

"She has been such a supportive leader," LaMonica said, who's worked alongside Smith for at least 16 years. "She always gives nurses a voice." Under Smith's direction, "The nurses and physicians sat together on teams to collaborate" on patient care, LaMonica said.

Shultz volunteered his services to the project.

“A large amount of planning had already been done before I was brought onto the project, and I only needed to make several small technical changes,” he said. “Multiple meetings were needed to figure out how we could travel through the full hospital, hitting certain points at certain times, even with factoring traveling on two elevators, down a flight of stairs, and across about a 100 yards of road.”

The video is so remarkable because it had to be done in one shot — with no editing.

“There could be no 'dress rehearsal' for the video since it was a hospital, and the most practice that could be done was simple walk-throughs for timing,” Schultz said.

Taping took place on the morning of April 19. "It was pretty loud," Smith said of the music, which needed to be moved along with the filmmaker, so each lip-syncher could appear to be really singing. Staff had to shut all the patients' doors and even called physicians out of their morning meeting to participate.

"There had to be coordination with Middletown Fire and Police departments," Smith said, "because they closed down Crescent Street for quite a while while [LaMonica] got everyone in the whole hospital — not just the nurses — involved."

Hospital CEO Vincent G. Capece Jr. even made an appearance, throwing money for the lyrics, "I got my money, let's spend it up."

"It's kind of neat because everyone is a star in their own area" of the film, LaMonica said.

To personalize their version of the video, Middlesex Hospital's has a quirkly little addition. Every shot has someone — or something — in Groucho Marx glasses.

The original Canadian video was done in one take. After it went viral, the Today Show chose it as one of five insanely popular YouTube films to re-enact. To date, the original has 8,724,065 hits. The Today Show's rendition has 81,181 views.

"It took us two tries," LaMonica said. "After we did two [takes], I was kind of bummed, so I went on the [Today Show] site. NBC — it took them three tries. I was like, 'yes!'"

Since 1995, Smith has been VP of nursing. Earlier this year, she received the CT Nurses Association prestigious Diamond Jubilee Doris Armstrong Award, the highest honor a nurse can earn in the state.

When Smith retires later this year after caring for patients since 1973, what she'll miss most about the job is not surprising. "The people. It's like the Middlesex family. They are the best."

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Jeb Nocmather May 19, 2011 at 09:18 PM
Wow!!! They must have gotten a new shipment of meds in at the hospital. Give us some of whatever your taking.
Michael Hayes (Editor) May 20, 2011 at 03:28 AM
This is so cool. I recognize the maternity ward and some of the awesome nurses that were on duty when my little one was born!
Lynne May 23, 2011 at 04:27 PM
Leave it to Nancy to do something so innovative & special for a friend/co-worker! It looks like Middlesex Hospital is the place to be :)

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