Written by SMH Oncology Clinical Counselor Elizabeth Bornstein
Music. Such a powerful medium. It crosses all boundaries — age, ability, culture, language, time, geography — to move us in infinite ways and to connect us, with each other and with ourselves. Whether it’s lyrical or instrumental, heard or felt, live or a recording, music is a universal language that speaks to every human on so many levels.
Health Benefits of Experiencing Music
Music has been used as an instrument of healing for centuries. It has measurable, proven effects on the brain and other body systems. Regardless of the age or stage of health of the person experiencing it, music can:
• Regulate breathing and blood pressure.
• Improve mood.
• Reduce stress and anxiety.
• Enhance rest and relaxation.
• Reduce the perception of pain, nausea or other distressing symptoms.
• Improve cognition and memory.
Music as Medicine
In healthcare, music is often used to support the emotional/mental health and physical healing or rehabilitation of those managing chronic, acute or terminal health conditions, and other challenges.
Incorporating music into medical care has been proven to help with a range of health concerns, including Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, autism, cancer, cardiac issues, depression, Parkinson’s disease, trauma and challenges related to premature birth.
Hospitals and rehabilitation facilities provide therapeutic music in a variety of ways. It might be performed live by musicians, played through speakers for a group, or actively experienced by patients playing instruments themselves. Other technologies allow patients to self-select music, either via channels on patient-room television or using a portable listening device.
What is Music Therapy?
While all music can offer therapeutic benefits, not all experiences are considered music therapy—even if they take place in a hospital or rehab facility.
Music therapy is a specialized, evidence-based field of medicine practiced by specially trained and certified clinicians called “music therapists.” By involving their patients in active and passive live-music experiences, music therapists evaluate a patient’s emotional well-being, physical health, communication capabilities and cognition.
Music at SMH
At Sarasota Memorial, our clinical and wellness programs embrace the healing power of music, and many incorporate it in comprehensive patient care plans. From our purposefully designed Pediatric Music Room to live performances in inpatient common spaces, SMH aims to provide unique, music-oriented healing experiences for our patients and their loved ones.
Therapeutic music offerings at Sarasota Memorial include:
- The Pediatric Unit features a specially designed music room, where our young patients can make music using a variety of donated musical instruments, including drums, guitars and keyboard. The unique, healing space not only offers a distraction from being in the hospital, it gives them an outlet for emotional expression and creative play.
- Live music is regularly provided for our patients in the Oncology and Orthopedic inpatient units, both bedside and in common spaces.
- Patients and visitors can tune in to soothing music paired with nature scenes, 24 hours a day, on televisions in patient rooms and hospital waiting rooms and lounges.
- SMH community partners and talented musicians, the Upward Notes regularly perform live concerts in the hospital courtyard for patients, visitors and staff.
- Throughout the hospital’s first floor, visitors and staff may hear live concerts on the baby grand piano located in the Courtyard Tower lobby or “Brahms Lullaby” being played overhead to herald a new baby born at SMH.
At Sarasota Memorial, we’re committed to treating the whole patient, offering care beyond treatment. Pairing music — in all its forms — with first-class healthcare allows us to do just that.
Elizabeth Bornstein, MSSA, LCSW, OSW-C, is a licensed and oncology-certified clinical social worker, with advanced training in mind-body medicine and expressive arts. She has provided oncology counseling at Sarasota Memorial for nearly two decades.