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Music’s benefits for hospital patients

Music / May 23, 2013

Written by Kathleen Marsh, music volunteer

As a music volunteer at Presbyterian St. Luke’s Hospital and also a recent music therapy graduate, I am always searching the internet for articles and videos about using music in healthcare settings.  This week in particular, several articles have literally fallen into my lap.  This week, several newspapers published articles raving about the benefits of patients utilizing music during their hospital stay.  They brought music therapy into the spotlight once again, but also offer very practical ideas for patients who might be looking for ways to decrease pain, emotionally cope with difficult diagnoses, or reflect on their own lives.

Below I’ve included links for full versions of these articles and some older articles as well as excerpts from the articles themselves.  For pediatric and adult patients, the bottom line is: engaging with live or recorded music, especially one’s favorite music, can have many benefits, including decreasing anxiety and pain levels while fostering relaxation and other physiological benefits.  Music can serve as a powerful coping mechanism as well.


From the New York Times, April 15, 2013 http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/15/health/live-music-soothes-premature-babies-a-new-study-finds.html?_r=0

Live Music’s Charms, Soothing Premature Hearts

Even the Beatles would have had trouble recognizing their peppy song in the lullaby that Andrea Zalkin sang to the tiny, fragile baby clutched to her chest in the neonatal unit. But there was something unintentionally poignant in the title she chose for her son: “Eight Days a Week” is more time than can fit on the calendar. Ms. Zalkin’s baby, Hudson, born 13 weeks early, has had too little time.

As she sang, monitors showed Hudson’s heartbeat slowing and his oxygen saturation increasing. Effects like that were among the findings of a new study on the use of music as medicine.


From Health Day News for Healthier Living, May 20, 2013 http://consumer.healthday.com/Article.asp?AID=676579

Favorite Music May Ease Anxiety in ICU Patients

MONDAY, May 20 (HealthDay News) — Music can help soothe the fear and anxiety of critically ill patients who have been placed on ventilators, reducing both their stress and their need for sedatives, according to a new study.

Intensive care unit (ICU) patients allowed to listen to music of their choice whenever they liked enjoyed a 36 percent reduction in their anxiety levels compared to patients not offered music, researchers found.

The ICU patients who were provided music also needed less sedation, with their sedative intake dropping 38 percent compared to other patients, the findings showed.

From the Orange County Register, November 15, 2010 http://www.ocregister.com/articles/jacob-276079-andrea-steve.html

A Jam Session at the Deathbed

The bluesy bedside jam session started when Jacob Switzer, 13, took his guitar into his dying father’s bedroom and joined two music therapists who were there to help ease his pain.

Sunlight trickled in through the shut blinds in the dim bedroom as Steve Switzer, 53, groaned and asked his wife for more pain medication.

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He had liver cancer. A few days before, he enrolled in Seasons Hospice because there was nothing more the doctors could do. He had days left to live.

Andrea Scheve, a 32 year-old music therapist, sat on the floor, strummed her guitar and improvised the “Stomach Ache Blues” to help distract him from the pain. Jacob sat on the foot of the bed.

Inspired by the blues, Steve lifted his oxygen tube from his nose and off his face. He disconnected himself from the morphine pump and climbed out of bed.

“What are you doing?” his wife Jennifer Switzer, 46, asked. She was startled, shocked. He hadn’t been out of bed in days.

“Getting something,” Steve said.

Steve returned with a bag of harmonicas.



From the Tennessean, May 8, 2013 http://www.tennessean.com/article/20130509/LIFE01/305090039/Music-comes-out-misery?nclick_check=1

Musicians help young Vanderbilt patients tell their stories on new CD

In the final days of his life, Christopher Weber sat up in his hospital bed and danced to Lil Wayne.

A teenager who wore saggy pants and loved rap, Weber never let his cystic fibrosis define him.

But it did inspire him.


And not in the way he expected.

This boy — who was hard-core hip hop — became a country composer.

Through the music therapy program at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, Weber learned to play guitar and tell stories with the strum of his strings. He wrote songs that helped him with personal expression. He wrote songs that helped him cope.

He was fighting the odds against his cystic fibrosis. Music made him forget that for a moment.