Music

Fri, 5 Apr, 2019Courtney Allan

This hospital uses piano music to boost the mood and mental health of patients

This hospital uses piano music to boost the mood and mental health of patients

The doctors, nurses, patients and visitors of the Sunshine Coast University Hospital get to enjoy the sight and sounds of a grand piano in the foyer of the hospital.

A group of doctors lobbied for the grand piano to be introduced to the hospital some months ago. The Australian Doctor’s Orchestra finally donated the 50-year-old instrument this month.

Musician and Sunshine Coast doctor Michael Lam was behind the movement. He told The ABC:

"I found it was really a shame that we had lots of this beautiful space but we didn't have any opportunities available for people to play music here, so we thought we would change that," Dr Lam explained.

"It brings a certain light to the space of the hospital which can be a place for a lot of suffering and sadness.

"I have lots of colleagues messaging me when one of the bosses sits down and plays for about 10 minutes."

"It is really nice to see people who are so focussed on their clinical work also engaging in this cultural side of things."

Dr Lam said that the benefits of musical therapy are well documented and that the benefit extends beyond patients and visitors. For many, piano is known as a total brain workout.

"We know that it helps significantly in the fields of anxiety relief, people suffering from eating disorders and as a distraction care therapy for palliative care patients," he said.

"We know very well that depression and anxiety and the rates of self-harm and suicide are almost double that of the normal population in doctors and we know that staff wellbeing initiatives are really important in order to keep that number as low as possible," Dr Lam said.

"We do still have problems with managing that stress and suffering at work … but we can have people sitting here playing the piano and brightening up their day a little."

Many staff take the time to let loose on the keys, including experienced pianist and nurse unit manager Helen Rodgers.

"It's really good for the soul, it makes you feel really invigorated," Ms Rodgers said

"We come down here of a lunchtime and my staff come and they say, 'It's just such a good feeling', those endorphins are just running wild by the time we go back.

"The other day a patient who was waiting for her husband in oncology came up to me and said, 'I heard you playing Send in the Clowns and I cried'."

The impact of music is being noticed at a senior level as well. Dr Clinton Roddick, whose a paediatric senior house officer has said that the piano has had a positive influence on staff.

"It allows us to refocus and remind ourselves that there's some joy outside work," Mr Roddick said.

"And then go back and probably do a better job just because we've had that little moment of joy and being able to do something which reminds us why we do this work."

Do you think it’s a good idea to have a piano in a hospital? Let us know in the comments.