Music and Healing

Cathy DeWitt, Artist in Residence

22 March 2008

As the Musician in Residence for Shands Arts in Medicine program in Gainesville, Florida, for over twenty years, I have seen and experienced the healing power of music in just about every kind of hospital setting.

Just one song can completely alter a patient’s mood. Countless times I’ve had the nurse step into the room and say, “Look at the improvement in those vitals!” after singing a song with the patient. I’ve had a child who was curled up in pain start strumming the small harp I held in front of him, then sit up and continue strumming wordlessly for ten minutes, eyes shining, his pain forgotten. I’ve had families visiting separate patients who were roommates, with the curtain closed between them, open the curtain to join together in song, and continue singing after I left the room.

Cathy and Will on the BMTU.

Music touches people deeply and quickly, sometimes causing an emotional reaction — tears or a smile — within just a few seconds. It’s one of the most accessible, accepted, and powerful tools for transformation in the healthcare setting.

“The unit is transformed when the music begins. We become a place of joy!”

–Margo Chase-Dobrian, Bone Marrow Transplant Unit Nurse and Cancer Survivor