Music offers many benefits.
It might seem odd to have a piano in the lobby, or a strolling violinist on a post-op ward, but for the staff and patients of Good Samaritan Hospital, it’s the perfect counter to what can be a stressful environment.
Good Sam uses music at both its main and Mission Oaks campuses. Pianists play background music in the lobby, while others visit the Behavioral Health area and encourage patient participation. All musicians are auditioned and coached to play soothing selections, so there are no surprises, said Mary McCall, Director of Volunteer Services.
“Music reduces stress and anxiety, and we think it works as a positive diversion,” McCall said. “It’s not going to take the place of pain medication, but it certainly means that sometimes a patient might use less.”
For violinist Kitty Lan, a high-school student who plays in the ICU and the NICU, the chance to use music for healing was not one to be missed.
“When I saw the genuine smiles of patients, caretakers and doctors, I felt an overwhelming sense of joy and fulfillment,” Lan said. “I limit my music to the more low tones of the violin, to avoid any possibly irritating sounds. I love to play lullaby-like pieces from some famous composers, such as Mozart or Bach.”
Other NICU musicians include a harpist, whose music “is very soothing and a gentle reminder to lower our voices while caring for our babies so they, as well as we, can hear the music,” said Maris Whitney, RNC, MSN, Manager of Children’s Services. “Our parents enjoy hearing it as well. Our unit has so many sounds and alarms which usually signal something is wrong; it’s nice to have a sound that signals something good.”
Music melts stress
Guitarist Steve Austin visits the Behavioral Health Inpatient Unit, where individuals are being treated for mental health issues and chemical dependency.
It can be a difficult group to work with but he said the rewards are worth the extra effort.
“I participate because it is a very humbling experience,” Austin said. “I like to play songs from the 1950s through the 1970s, stuff I grew up with. I like these songs because people can sing along. It makes them feel good.”
Staff members agree.
“For a short time, patients’ personal struggles seem lessened,” said Rose Furlong, RN, MN, Director of Behavioral Health at the Mission Oaks campus. “Music and mental health appear to be good partners.”
More than anything, the music serves as an antidote for everything that’s happening to patients and families alike.
“There can be a lot of stress here,” McCall said. “I work here; it’s comfortable for me. But for many people, their blood pressure goes up as soon as they arrive. They don’t know what to expect or what’s going to happen, and hearing some music helps them to calm down and relax, even if it’s just a little bit.”