A survey of surgeon, nurse, patient, and family perceptions of music and music therapy in surgical contexts

Music therapy is common on medical/surgical units, Intensive Care Units, etc. but is less common in surgical areas of the hospital. Because music therapy is less common in this area, Lane, Palmer, & Chen (2019) conducted a survey study to see what the perception of music and music therapy are amongst hospital staff, patients, and families involved in surgery. 

In a span of 3 months, 249 surgical patients, 248 family members, and 93 surgeons, were surveyed at the Mather Surgery Center at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center. Of these individuals, 93% thought listening to music could be beneficial during surgery. Furthermore, 74% were open to live music before surgery, 84% were open to recorded music before surgery, and 77% were open to music during surgery. Of those surveyed, 76% believed the biggest benefit of music during surgery would be decreasing anxiety. 

Family members felt anxious about their loved one having surgery and felt that live or recorded music could reduce their own anxiety as well as their loved ones. Families also stated that they felt offering music listening or live music made them feel like the hospital offers unique services, cares about patients, and is a top facility. 

98% of surgeons surveyed believe that music listening could benefit their patients, stating that the biggest benefit would be decreasing patient anxiety, improve patient satisfaction, and focus patients’ mind to something positive. Nurses surveyed stated that they were open to hearing music in their work environment and the majority (97%) felt that their patients could benefit from music. Interestingly, nurses felt that the music would be most effective post-surgery and before surgery respectively. 

This study shows that families, surgeons, and nurses support the use of music before and after surgery. This support for music listening also shows that while music therapists should advocate for their services regarding live music prior to surgery, helping patients build playlists to use before and after surgery, or even altering the patient’s sound environment while under anesthesia. Music therapists would be able to help determine while option might be best for each patient, while also providing music listening opportunities for when the music therapist is not available or busy with other patients. Patients needing extra support surrounding surgery (such as individuals with developmental disabilities, dementia, depression or anxiety, etc.) may also benefit from live music therapy intervention due to the flexibility/training of the music therapists. 

By Jessica Fletcher, MM, MT-BC

Lane, D., Palmer, J. B., & Chen, Y. (2018). A survey of surgeon, nurse, patient, and family perceptions of music and music therapy in surgical contexts. Music Therapy Perspectives,37(1), 28-36.