3 ways music helps the hospital’s environment

A hospital’s chaplain explains why music belongs at a hospital.

Joseph Hart is the chaplain at Greater Baltimore Medical Center (GBMC). He shared the following email with us. (Pictured above: Jim Albrecht, president of the GBMC Volunteer Auxiliary Board, plays the piano in GBMC’s main lobby.)

A newly diagnosed pensive patient named Patrick was anticipating his first treatment in Radiation Oncology at GBMC. He looked at himself in the mirror, wondering what would become of him through this process. How would his life change, what adjustments would need to be made to accommodate his wife and family?

As he dressed, he heard his wife telling him it was time to go to the hospital. As they drove, he gazed out the window of the car, looking at the world outside. He realized once again how blessed he was to have such incredible support around him.

At the main entrance of the hospital, his wife stopped the car and told him to go ahead to the treatment area and she would join him after parking the car. Entering the door of the hospital, his anxiety was palpable.

He walked slowly toward the elevator leading to the treatment area. As he walked, he heard someone playing “Moon River” on the piano. As he listened, he found his mind wandering back to 1962 when the song, then newly released, was the one he and his wife chose for their first dance at their wedding reception, a day he remembered with such joy and satisfaction. Stopping to listen, somehow his anxiety was eased. He felt the warmth of a hand reaching to hold his; it was his wife of 50 years, who whispered, “It’s still our song.”

With that, they moved hand in hand toward the elevator.

Patrick’s story mirrors the experience of our patients in their treatment journey. As the director of spiritual support services, I have witnessed firsthand how anxiety has been reduced through music in a variety of ways.

At GBMC, we have two grand pianos, one in the main lobby and one at our OB entrance, where anxiety is often significant with patients and families coming and going. A volunteer harpist also provides comfort to some of our cancer patients. Through our “Wednesday at Noon” concert series, we welcome musicians throughout our community to come and play a variety of instruments in various formats on a monthly basis.

Today, many health care institutions are integrating music into their spectrum of services for patients. Music fits well within the philosophy of holistic person-centered care, encompassing the physical, mental, social and spiritual aspects of wellness, adopted by many modern institutions to guide their practice.

The healing effects of music stem from a myriad of human physiological and psychological responses, including the following:

  • Music affects heartbeat, pulse rate and blood pressure. Variations in tempo, frequency and volume can slow down or speed up the heart rate, which in turn has a calming effect and reduces stress.
  • Music can stimulate the release of natural opiates in the body such as endorphins, which work as pain relievers and mood enhancers.
  • Music can stimulate communication and social responsiveness helping to reduce a sense of isolation.

At GBMC, we believe the gift of music will continue to aid in the healing and restoration of our patients.

Is your hospital playing music? Send an email to jessical@ragan.com.

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