Live Music at the Bedside
If you’ve ever been in a hospital, you’ve probably noticed how loud and often busy it is. Hospitals are designed to be efficient places for doctors and nurses to do their jobs and treat the ill. They are surprisingly not necessarily designed for the comfort and healing of patients.
Patients have a hard time sleeping, they feel out of control of when things happen, and there is often a lot of fear and uncertainty during a typical hospital stay.
When I enter a room, my intention is to give the patient’s mind, body, and emotions a break so their body can focus on getting the healing process going.
What Do I Do as a Therapeutic Musician?
I provide live, prescribed music at the bedside of the ill and dying. My intention is to use music and sound to promote a healing environment that is conducive to relaxation for the patient (and caregivers). When the body is relaxed, the natural healing response can be activated.
As the needs of the patient change during a session, I will change the music to meet the person where they are in the moment. I always ask permission before providing music and am trained to focus my attention on the individual patient I serve.
I receive referrals from case managers, hospital chaplains, nurses, nurse aids, doctors, and sometimes visitors who happen to hear me from the hallway. Although not required, I sometimes receive information within HIPAA regulations about the patient’s condition. While providing music, I observe and then chart any reactions (physical or emotional) to the music.
Why Music at the Bedside?
It has been proven anecdotally (for thousands of years) and through study that music can help:
Boost the immune system
Speed surgical recovery
Lessen anxiety and stress
Stabilize heart rate
Reduce blood pressure
Reduce the need for chemicals (anesthesia, pain medication)
Assist in the life/death transition
Promote the body’s natural relaxation response leading to healing
Read some research that supports healing music.
Why Not Just Use Recordings?
Imagine that a nurse sets up a radio or CD player for a patient. The nurse then leaves the room. If the patient cannot reach the radio or is in an unconscious state, they cannot have any control over the recording. Without anyone in the room observing the patient or patient monitors, it will go unnoticed if the patient is reacting poorly to the recorded music.
When a live musician provides music, they are observing and assessing whether the music is effective or appropriate. If needed, the trained therapeutic musician can make changes in style, tempo, volume, etc. and then assess whether the change is promoting relaxation.
Additionally, recorded music comes in a digitally compressed format. This is the sonic equivalent of eating fast food. Although fast food delivers calories, the nutritional value can be questionable. Live music provides the full spectrum of sound. This means the brain and body are receiving the full “nutritional” value of the acoustic sound produced by my voice and ukulele.
How I Serve
Therapeutic music is a service. As a Certified Music Practitioner, I have trained to provide live, prescribed (meaning that I can change the way I play the music), music at the bedside of the ill and dying.
I provide music one-on-one in the hospital, hospice, or nursing homes. For groups, I serve at assisted living facilities. I work in the mid-Michigan area including East Lansing, St. Johns, and Owosso.
Music Practitioners are not Music Therapists
It is common for people to call me a Music Therapist. However, there are differences!
What’s the Difference?!
Here’s a handy chart:
Consider the difference between a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine who does deep tissue structural realignment versus a trained Massage Therapist. The DO has a specific goal in mind for the patient. Additional tests or prescriptions may be ordered. A Massage Therapist is necessary when someone has tense muscles and needs help relaxing. The Massage Therapist creates a relaxing environment and works on those muscles to bring someone to a more relaxing state.
A Music Therapist is using music to help someone achieve specific goals. Often, clients will be participating in music making as the therapeutic activity. The MT will then chart on the patient’s progress to mark progress toward the desired goal. A Certified Music Practitioner has the intention to create a relaxing environment to promote relaxation for a patient (who is NOT participating in music making).
It is very important to know the difference between a Music Therapist and a Certified Music Practitioner. Each has a specific and discerning role to play in providing music in therapeutic ways.
For more information on Music Therapy, visit this website.