Healthcare News & Insights

How music in the hospital helps patients & staff

Much has been said about the healing power of music in hospitals. Now two recent studies show just how much music can help both patients and clinical staff reduce stress, which improves outcomes all around. 

ThinkstockPhotos-75676172When patients have been on a ventilator and are relearning to breathe on their own, it can be a very stressful process, especially since they’re likely still recovering from other medical problems that may leave them anxious and weak.

According to a news release from the American Thoracic Society published by Science Daily, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh decided to see if providing patients with the comfort of familiar music could help.

The hospital selected patients who’d be in a mechanical ventilator for more than four days. During the ventilator weaning process, which lasted six days, patients were allowed to listen to music of their choosing every other day for 60 minutes.

Vital signs were taken each day. On days patients listened to music, they demonstrated significant decreases in respiratory rate, heart rate, anxiety and shortness of breath compared to non-music days.

Patients also were able to stay off the ventilator longer on music days, and their blood pressure was lower. Just listening to the music of their choice decreased the stress that weaning from the ventilator put on their bodies.

So perhaps hospitals should encourage patients to listen to their personal iPods and music players to boost their moods (and relieve their stress) at key stages of their recovery.

Music during surgery

It’s not just patients who benefit from stress relief from listening to music. Surgeons also perform better when there’s music in the ED, according to an editorial published last winter in the academic journal BMJ.

According to an article about the editorial appearing on Yahoo Health, it’s estimated that music is played during up to 72% of operations. Besides reducing anxiety in the surgery team, it also increases surgeons’ focus, which ultimately leads to improved performance. And these effects are boosted for surgeons who listen to music regularly.

Classical music is a top choice among many surgeons in the operating room for several reasons. It’s been proven to boost focus in many other situations (such as studying for exams), and there aren’t any lyrics to distract surgical staff. But mainstream music can also be helpful, though researchers said more lively music should be saved for more straightforward procedures, as opposed to complex or emergency cases.

Whatever music is chosen, researchers caution that it may not always have positive effects on the efficiency of the surgical team. Listening to music can hurt communication among team members, particularly between surgical staff and anesthesiologists – possibly because it’s difficult to relay instructions when music is playing.

However, the calming effect of having music playing may actually boost cooperation between team members – if the music affects everyone the same way.

That’s why it’s crucial to get input from all clinical staff when it comes to playing music during surgery. While the practice is relaxing for many, music may keep other staff members from focusing on the task at hand, which could increase the risk of preventable errors during the procedure. So make sure all staff members agree on the type of music played in the operating room.

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