Bringing Music Into the Hospital to Enhance Care

Music therapy is an established health care profession. We use musical interactions to address the individualized needs of the patients and families.


“Almost all children respond to music.  Music is an open-sesame and if you can use it carefully and appropriately, you can reach into that child’s potential for development”
– Dr. Clive Robbins, Music Therapist

As I walk down the halls of the hospital with my guitar on my back and a cart full of instruments, family members, patients, and even employees are often surprised and delighted to see me knocking on patients’ doors and offering my services. Parents often express gratitude for the break from the usual pokes and procedures. Staff often note the effectiveness of the interaction to help with a child’s difficult experience at the hospital. Many of them also ask me . . . “What exactly is Music Therapy??”

How Do We Use Music Therapy?

In the children's hospital setting music therapy can look like so many different things! Writing a song to process a new diagnosis, creating an energizing musical jam to reduce the patient’s anxiety, receptively listening to live music to aid in reducing pain during a procedure, or to help a patient fall asleep. These are all things that the music therapy team may be doing on any given day at Primary Children’s Hospital. In all of these cases, the goal is the same – using musical interactions to address the individualized needs of the patient. Music therapy is an established health care profession and these interactions focus on the individual’s unique physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs.

Because our music therapists work on all inpatient units of the hospital, and with patients of all ages (yes even the babies!), these needs can vary greatly. Every patient that works with the team must have a music therapy “order," basically a prescription from the doctor when they identify a patient that needs additional support and could benefit. When working in the hospital with a music therapist, a patient's goals might include:

  • Improving coping skills
  • Normalizing the hospital environment
  • Pain management
  • Procedural support
  • Emotional support and self-expression
  • Improve neurological functioning
  • Improve speech and language skills
  • Fine and gross motor development
  • Legacy creation and memory making

Much More Than Musicians

People often think that music therapists are simply volunteers and performers that really like music. In actuality, music therapists undergo extensive training. This includes attending a four year undergraduate program from an accredited university, practicum experience within various clinical populations, and a six month, full-time internship.

Music therapists must also become board-certified to practice after their internship (MT-BC), and in Utah there is a state certification (SCMT). Becoming board-certified includes passing a board certification exam, and acquiring credits to re-certify every 5 years.

About Our Music Therapy Program

At Primary Children’s Hospital we are fortunate to have 3 full-time music therapists, interns, PRN support, and a music volunteer program. The music therapy team sees patients on all of our inpatient units and also works closely with the Rainbow Kids palliative care team and the inpatient rehab team.

As a music therapist at Primary Children’s Hospital it is an honor to provide comfort and care to our patients through music. It is an honor to support patients through both the joy and the pain, the challenges and the laughter - all while providing a soundtrack to their experience.

“Music Therapy can make the difference between withdrawal & awareness, between isolation & interaction, between chronic pain & comfort, between demoralization & dignity”
– Barbara Crowe, Music Therapist