HAP Blog

Music Therapy Brings Sounds of Support to Pennsylvania Hospitals

Program to be available statewide during 2023

December 07, 2022

Even though the pandemic’s peak has softened, it has left its mark in health care forever. Not just in the way we moved through it, but how it impacted the heart and souls of the health care workers who faced endless days of uncertainty about their own safety, the emotional turmoil they encountered, and the physical and mental exhaustion they endured.

To support the wellbeing of health care workers, HAP developed the Music Therapy Collaborative (MTC) in partnership with the Pennsylvania Counsel on the Arts and the Pennsylvania Music Therapy Task Force. The goal was to make grant funding available to HAP members through an application process to use creative arts—in this case, music therapy—to support the health care workers as they moved through the pandemic. One of the innovative strengths of the MTC was encouraging grant applicants to design a program that was customized to their facility.

Since inception, seven hospital facilities have received grant funding. Heading into 2023, we’re focused on grants that utilize music therapy for overall health care worker wellbeing across HAP’s membership. The music therapy initiatives can serve:

  • The hospital-wide workforce
  • One unit at a time
  • One department at a time

From the start, we learned about the in-depth training for board certified music therapists (MT-BC) and clinical therapeutic use of music therapy. It is much more than playing a soothing song in the background.

Music therapy: Young woman playing a guitar

As HAPs co-leads for the Music Therapy Collaborative (MTC), we visited hospitals during 2022 to hear, see, and feel the program’s impact. The experience was uplifting and grounding at the same time. The site visits were provided by the hospital staff who were directly involved with the program, including the MT-BCs..

We visited nursing units and spoke to the staff about having music therapy in their work environment. We heard stories about how environmental music therapy, group sessions such as drum circles, and one-on-one therapeutic sessions impacted their day. The feedback was very positive. One participant stated: “Music is so soothing and grounding, and much needed as I remember to take a deep breath.” Staff also requested more frequent music therapy sessions to help lower their stress.

We also heard from the music therapist about the need to adapt the original plan to the unique environment of a busy nursing unit like an intensive care. What would have been an approach used in a different setting, was not a good fit. Staff found it challenging to leave the bedside/unit, so in many circumstances, the music was brought to them. 

The site visits inspired us as we learned more about the courage and commitment to patient care that health care workers were—and still are—providing in a very challenging environment. Our work must continue to support those who care for us here in Pennsylvania.

The Music Therapy Collaborative program still is underway and will be offering additional opportunities for grant funding during the New Year. Be on the lookout for additional details from us about the next application opportunity for 2023.

For more information about implementing a music therapy program at your facility, contact Mary Marshall, senior director, workforce and professional development, or Elizabeth (Beth) Murray, M.Ed., RN, MCHES, HN-BC, project manager.

Images courtesy of the music therapy program at Pottstown Hospital - Tower Health.


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