In my recent clinical work, I have spent time focusing on music and health as it pertains to medical professionals. I am often struck by the peripheral effects of music on the staff. At times, staff will ask me if I could play for them. Sometimes I find myself plugging in my keyboard in a nursing station, putting on small concerts with oncologists, or sneaking away to a piano with a palliative care physician to play duets. In all of these situations and many more like them, I am amazed at how powerful music can be for medical professionals.
It is no secret that working in a cancer care hospital or dealing with cancer from any angle can be a stressful and overwhelming experience. Because staff are faced with intensely challenging moments on a daily basis, I believe it is essential that the environment in which they work supports these challenges. One of the ways in which I engage in staff wellness is by offering music therapy activities to staff. We have run group drumming circles, staff wellness workshops as well as engaged in smaller musical activities as part of daily routines. For example, in daily medical rounds, I will often incorporate a bit of music, usually via my Tibetan singing bowl, and give the staff a few moments to be still, be silent, and pause to collect their thoughts. We often incorporate music into rituals that involve honouring those we have cared for who have died, and use music in celebratory moments. We often host special events such as birthday parties and even a wedding on various inpatient units. These events are almost always accompanied by music, which can set the tone, change the mood and involve people.
In my experience, staff have often discussed incorporating more music into their daily routines. Here are some suggestions as to how to add more musical moments to the lives of medical professionals:
- Opt to have one staff member choose a CD or radio station once a week; have that CD or radio station playing softly in a nursing station for all to enjoy;
- Going to see live music can be a great option for a staff outing;
- Have a music therapist run a wellness group (drums and/or singing can be great options!);
- As a medical professional, take a moment out of your day to plug in your iPod, radio, or computer and listen to a favourite song- this can be a fabulous way to relax, de-stress or de-compress;
- Music is fun to talk about- find out if there are others on your team who share your musical tastes. You may be surprised!
Whether you’re a physician, research analyst, administrative assistant or clinical trials nurse, music can be a wonderful way to engage with your team or take a solo moment to relax.
“My idea is that there is music in the air, music all around us; the world is full of it, and you simply take as much as you require.” – Edward Elgar
SarahRose holds a Masters degree in music education from the University of Toronto, and a Masters degree in music therapy at Wilfrid Laurier University. She is the founder and coordinator of the first music therapy programs at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and Kensington Hospice in Toronto. Her clinical work and research is focused mainly on quality of life for acute palliative care, hematology, and hospice populations. She is also a Suzuki music educator, piano accompanist and singer/songwriter.