Is Music the most underutilized intervention in a hospital?


listening to the calming, rhythmic entrainment music prior to surgeryI read everything that I can get my hands on about the healing power of music, don’t you?  All of my music therapist friends write fascinating case studies and publish their research, but you probably know I am not a music therapist.  I call myself a clinical musicologist because I have a PhD in musicology and have worked at the University of Louisville School of Medicine, and while there I earned a Master of Science in Social Work.  In 1966 I was a freshman at Florida State University  and they had a great music therapy department.  But I wanted to be a concert pianist at that time, so I went to FSU to study with famed concert pianist Edward Kilenyi and to practice the piano for 4-5 hours a day, which I loved!

It was over 25 years later that I realized that my passion for music and performing now included teaching people what I had learned about the healing power of music. A chance meeting with Dr. Arthur Harvey clinched this idea that teaching people about how music affects the mind, body and spirit was my mission and my passion going forward.

Which brings me to the point of why music is likely one of the most underutilized interventions in a hospital!

Recently, one of my physician friends posted on LinkedIn that he has believed for a long time that music is the most underutilized intervention in a medical/hospital setting! Why might that be?

I believe that although most people really love music, they also take it for granted because it is so readily available and most of the time, it’s free!  That should be a plus, right?  But it turns out that it actually makes people devalue it.  The key to making music a powerful intervention in a medical setting is to make it very intentional and not just incidental. 

I totally agree with my colleague that music is underutizlied, but how do we change that ?  First, we must understand how music affects the mind and body so that we can choose intelligently which music to use.

Of course live music is always best, but in a crowded operating room, prep room, or recovery room, this is just not practical.  And it may be that the implementation of a music intervention is not well-understood.

As a clinical musicologist I believe that in order for music to have the absolute best effect at calming the patient and stabilizing blood pressure, heart rate and breathing, each patient needs to have their own listening device, whether headphones or earbuds.  And I believe that it’s best if these devices are cordless so that they don’t tangle with any of the other devices that are being used in the patient’s room or in the operating room.

We have been providing pre-loaded headphones for patients having surgery since 2009.  Of course these calming headphones with scientifically chosen music to engage rhythmic entrainment are also extremely beneficial for any hospital patient who is scared, stressed out or experiencing pain.

And now things have gotten even easier!!  You can download one of our 5 mobile apps and stream your favorite genre of music to your own Bluetooth headphones or AirPods!  And hospitals can now license are our playlists for patients to start streaming when they arrive on the morning of surgery or procedure! To learn more about our streaming music, click HERE.  If you’re a hospital, click HERE.

To summarize, music does NOT have to be the most underutilized intervention in a hospital!  Times are changing! Let’s step into the 21st century and use all of our wonderful technological advances to help patients heal and recover without harsh and addicting medications.  the time is NOW!