True, Paul Brandt might be the most awarded male Canadian Country Music artist in history. But before his music made a difference in the lives of his fans, Brandt played a different tune.

HEALTH STRONG, COUNTRY STRONG: Despite the comfort of a well-tuned guitar, country star Paul Brandt wore scrubs and a stethoscope before trading them in for a cowboy hat and leather boots. Photo: Phil Crozier

Fulfilling double-shift

While entering and winning talent competitions that helped kick-start his music career, Brandt was a pediatric nurse at the Alberta Children’s Hospital. “If my career didn’t take the turn it did,” he says of his 1996 breakthrough, “I’d still be a nurse. I’m blessed to have had two incredible careers that I love.”

Brandt’s father was a paramedic. He developed respect for the medical field gradually, and even thought of becoming a doctor: “When I was growing up I knew that whatever it was that I was going to do, I wanted to make a difference.”

His mother was also attracted to medicine and actually attended Calgary’s Mount Royal College at the same time as Brandt. “It would be a little awkward,” Brandt recalls. “You’d try to hope someone finds you attractive or that you’re going to meet someone—and your mom comes up and kisses you after class.” She was the better student, too, he admits; his mom made the Dean’s List more often than Brandt did himself.

“‘I’d have people say they remembered me for the care I gave them years before.’”

Tiny patients, big lessons

It was while working with kids, many who were terminally ill, that he saw firsthand the impact a nurse can make. “It is an incredible opportunity. You are constantly learning and pushing yourself,” he says, mentioning the popular misconception and adding it is not a place or role if you’re looking for “a routine done by rote.” Nursing offers something for everyone whether they prefer an emergency room or the one-on-one care of the elderly in the twilight years.

Brandt notes there are still fewer men in the profession, although that’s changed more with time. Men, he thinks, can bring a fresh perspective: “Working with female nurses, we discovered ways we could complement and inspire each other.”

Brandt’s impact was so profound that, as his career gained traction, people sought him out on tour for reasons other than an autograph. “I’d have people say they remembered me for the care I gave them years before,” he explains. One time, also on tour, he reverted to his old ways: “I looked out during the first number and saw people all circled around a woman who had gone into labor. I thought I might have to jump off the stage.” Fortunately, an ambulance arrived just in time.

Singing praise to nurses 

While no longer an active nurse, Brandt and his wife Elizabeth continue to support the Alberta Children’s Hospital. They are also involved in many philanthropic efforts, including The Buckspring Foundation, which raises money and awareness to help people in practical ways, locally and globally.

“One of the best things about being a nurse is that what you do is going to matter,” he reflects. “You don’t go into it for how much money you can make, but how much impact you can have on making someone’s life better. You can be upwardly mobile and be guaranteed a job that literally changes people’s lives.”