ST. LOUIS, Mo. — Music therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals to assist patients during their hospital stay and improve their patient experience. Patient visits take place at the bedside and family and caregivers are welcome to participate. Patients are referred to music therapy for coping support of a new diagnosis, pain/symptom management, assistance with anxiety or depression, stress relief, physical or motor concerns, cognition support to name a few.
But in the past few months, SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital added music therapy services to babies in the NICU. It’s a program administered by Board Certified Music Therapist, Kelli McKee. She is one of two full-time music therapists at Cardinal Glennon.
The program is still measuring the outcomes, but some of the therapies have shown immediate response such as the Pacifier Assisted Lullabye Device which plays soft music as the baby sucks on the pacifier. Most babies figure out within one minute that the music goes away when they stop sucking and will play again the more they suck on the pacifier. McKee says, "One of the wonderful things is its loaded with prerecorded music that is sung in a lullaby style and is appropriate for NICU babies, but the best part is that we can record mom's voice and actually that's more motivating for the kids."
The benefits of music therapy are noticed almost immediately. "I can't tell you how many times I've been in a session and been singing to a baby or playing music and their heart rate goes down their oxygen stats are in a better place". McKee says the hospital also gives ukulele lessons to dads who can bring music therapy home.
"Parents will say at the end of the session you know this is the first time my child has set up or interacted or smiled the entire time that we've been here."
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