Welcome to Extraordinary Stories of Empath Health. In this space we highlight our fantastic colleagues and the extraordinary work they do to make Empath Health’s Full Life Care a daily reality for the patients and families we serve. Join us as we demonstrate the ways in which our colleagues exemplify Empath’s core values: Eternally Hopeful, Profoundly Helpful, Lovingly Truthful, Confidently Skillful and Courageously Impactful.

Empath Health Massage Therapist Danette Shalkowski

In her mission as an Empath Health Massage Therapist, Danette Shalkowski is accustomed to providing just the right touch for patients in need of comfort and pain relief.

But on a recent visit, Shalkowski was the one who came away deeply touched by a patient’s generous gesture.

Suncoast Hospice patient M.A. Sinnhuber paid tribute to Shalkowski with a poem entitled “Hospice Masseuse.” Sinnhuber asked Shalkowski to read the poem before a session. The poem celebrated Shalkowski’s strong, but gentle, hands.

“I needed a minute to compose myself,” Shalkowski said. “I was very moved that someone would write about my touch. It gave me validation to know that I am doing God’s work, and I am right where I should be, helping others.”

Sinnhuber is a poet, artist and art teacher who lived most of her life in the Pittsburgh area. She now lives in Clearwater. Her chapbook, “The Leaving Field,” was published in 2013, and she her work was published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Vox Populi, Sandhill Review and Pittsburgh City Paper.

Shalkowski joined Empath Health in 2006 and has practiced massage therapy since 1996. Shalkowski employs myofascial release therapy, a gentle, constant massage that releases tightness and pain.

“The most rewarding thing is if I can just make someone feel better for an hour, day or a few days,” she said. “If the patient Is relaxed and calm, it gives the family caregiver a chance to relax. It doesn’t just help the patient, it helps the patient, family and caregivers.”

Shalkowski said her favorite line of the poem comes at the end of the first stanza and describes her hands “as gentle as God’s two right hands to do All Good.”

“I know I am just the facilitator and God works through me,” Shalkowski said.

Following is the poem in its entirety:


Hospice Masseuse
Her hands like fiery fists unclenched,
muscles ironed of any fierceness,
yet supple as a swan’s neck or a newborn’s arm
gentle, that could have lifted the baby from the womb,
strong, that could have fed the fresh hay into the combine,
hands that could have held the earth between
her hot, gentle, molten flesh and bones
inflicting no pain or pressure too tight
but as gentle as God’s two right hands
to do All Good. 

She took me to the king’s place.
She took me to the queen’s grace.
She took me to the white space.
I became the tree.I became bird.
I became rain.
I became breath.
I became no breath.


Empath Health is looking for extraordinary people to join our team. Learn more about our current job opportunities at EmpathCareers.org.