Creating Community With Music at the Bedside in 10 Steps

June 27th, 2010

Recently I’ve had a lot of folks asking me about our Arts in Medicine program at Shands ( With our Summer Intensive coming up in July, and the webinar I co-hosted last week for the Society for the Arts in Healthcare (, I’ve been collecting a lot of resource material. I thought I would post this simple guideline to entering a room as a musician in a hospital or healthcare setting. Hope you find it helpful!

MATERIALS NEEDED:  A musical instrument such as a guitar, bowed psaltery, ukulele, dulcimer, or rolling keyboard, the book “Rise Up Singing” and your voice.

1. Carrying and perhaps playing the instrument, stop and look into the room.

2. If the patient looks interested, ask if they would like to hear a song.

3. Ask where they are from, what kind of music they like, whether they have a favorite song or artist.

4. Invite them to sing with you. You can either do this right away, or sing one first and then ask “Would you like to sing one with me?”  Often if you start singing a song they like, they will join in without having to be asked.

5. If they can’t think of anything, give them the Rise Up Singing book to look at.

6. Pick a song from the book or a song of the patient’s choice and sing it with or for them. If family or friends are visiting, give them the opportunity to participate as well.

7. If there is another patient in the room who also seems to be enjoying the music, invite them into the process, perhaps opening the curtain between the beds if needed. ASK FIRST: “May I open this?”

8. Repeat the process with that patient and their visitors, if any. Nine times out of ten, there will be a connection of some sort discovered between the patients— the music, where they are from, what their illness is, the career of the family members, etc.

9. You have now created a small community within the room. Even if it’s just you and one patient, you have made a community by sharing the gift of music.

10. Music can also have personal therapeutic benefits for the patient, including: relaxation, distraction from their pain, alleviating their loneliness and/or depression, taking them temporarily out of their environment, serving as a memory trigger to remind them of and recapture a more pleasant experience. Music can be chosen for these specific reasons.

The patient may have a story to share that’s brought on by the music. This may result in conversation among family members, visitors, roommates, etc.  Sometimes even if the patient is asleep, or unconscious, it may be the family members who really want and need the music. It has benefits for them as well!

2 Responses to “Creating Community With Music at the Bedside in 10 Steps”

  1. Cathy,thank you so very much for those most valuable information,we are finally starting our project in healthcare,and the music part already stated,and those information will help greatly as a teaching tool, refining the project,and defining a monitoring module for research.Again thank you,hope you are well,and see you at our next conference,au revoir,Christian.

  2. cathy says:

    Bonjour, Christian, it’s great to hear from you! Will you be in Detroit?

RSS feed for comments on this post. And trackBack URL.

Leave a Reply