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Not your usual day at the hospital (Development through music)

Music / February 22, 2013

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Today, I shared music with 2 pediatric patients and their families.  On a “usual” day on the pediatrics unit, patients eat, sleep, take medications, eat, sleep, and repeat.  But on these days, they are also cared for by their doctors and nurses, visited by child-life specialists, and engage in activities with other Healing Arts volunteers.  These are the “not so usual” moments in which pediatric patients get to develop in their social interactions, express emotions, and maybe even get a little exercise (improving upon their physical development).

Music experiences can be used to help pediatric patients develop socially, emotionally, and physically, among other areas.  Too often, the circumstances which keep a child bed-bound may also keep a child from developing like their typical peers.  As a music therapy student, I have learned techniques and interventions to help children work on their developmental needs.

As a volunteer with the Healing Arts Program, I perform patients’ favorite music and invite them to join in with me in the music-making process.  (The performances I share are similar to music therapy techniques and interventions, but because I am not yet a board-certified music therapist, I use music performances which may lead to positive changes and benefits, such as a child developing socially, physically, and emotionally while making music.  For more on music therapy techniques, interventions, and general information about music therapy, you can check out www.musictherapy.org)

Today, the patients I visited sang along, shook maracas, and played a mean tambourine beat.  In doing so, one patient went from lying down in his bed at the start of our visit to sitting upright, smiling, and exercising his upper body while playing maracas along with me.  After listening to the lyrics of a reflective song, that same patient also expressed his thankfulness for his family and the support they’ve given him throughout his illness.  Another patient giggled and smiled at her father as they played together with me to Katy Perry’s “Firework”.  Her dad had never heard of the song (or Katy Perry, for that matter!), but he joined right in, willing to engage in social and healthy interactions with his daughter while passing time at the hospital.

As a music volunteer for the Healing Arts Program, I’ve had other powerful moments like these in which I’ve shared music with pediatric patients, Bone Marrow Transplant patients, and oncology patients.  I look forward to sharing more stories with you about how music can be used as a powerful tool to meet physical, social, emotional, and spiritual needs of hospital patients.