The Music Therapy Program at BC Women’s Hospital NICU started in 2018. It currently provides 2 half days of music therapy in 1 out of 5 units in the NICU. The unit receiving music therapy is Ladybug, a Complex Care Unit of infants from all over BC with complex medical needs. The music therapy sessions occur in patient rooms, with infants as young as 30 weeks gestation.
This effective, non-pharmacological intervention can be one to one with the infant, or collaborating with other members of the health team such as physiotherapy and occupational therapy. The sessions can also include parents and siblings to create family-centred music therapy.
Women’s Hospital is home to the largest NICU in the province. The 60 bed unit cares for approximately 1,700 babies each year, admitted from across British Columbia and the Yukon Territory. Families are important to them and participate as a member of the team in the care of their infant while in our unit. Staff work in partnership with families to provide the best care possible for their baby. Infants as young as 28 gestational weeks can benefit from music therapy. Currently, all the babies in the Complex Care Unit are receiving music therapy. The music therapist is part of a specialized care team working together to send these infants home as safely and as quickly as possible.
How does Music Therapy uniquely address the needs of clients at BC Women’s Hospital?
Over 20 years of research has demonstrated the multiple positive benefits of music therapy as a noninvasive intervention for infants in the NICU, with results including increased oxygen saturation, reduced perception of pain, calming and promotion of sleep, weight gain, an increased positive auditory environment, and reduced anxiety in parents.
How has COVID-19 impacted the program?
COVID-19 has not caused any interruption to the NICU Music Therapy Program however group programming is suspended at this time; babies are seen on a one-to-one basis with only parents allowed in the room. More precautions have been put into place but the program has adapted really well to creating musical connections while wearing a mask and goggles. If anything, Music Therapy has reduced the uncertainty of not seeing staff faces by providing soothing and interesting sounds to go with the covered faces. With a reduced amount of visitors, family and volunteers, music therapy also has provided more one to one contact for the infants and new ways to include siblings and family in the sessions by sharing them over video or live through zoom!
Your support would allow BC Women’s Hospital to keep one full day of music therapy service (7.5 hours per week) in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). An average of 4-6 patients and their families per day would be seen with this funding that would otherwise not have access to Music Therapy. This means that every baby that is on the Complex Care unit of the NICU is receiving music therapy weekly.
Unfortunately, it also means that the other 4 units in the NICU are not currently receiving any music therapy. BC Women’s vision is that the program can be extended through additional funding, and the health and wellbeing of these fragile infants can be directly affected. Your support will allow the music therapist to support babies in the other NICU units.
Some of the infants on this NICU unit have had to have a tracheostomy to support breathing difficulties. Having a trach tube involves a daily routine that is sometimes stressful for infants and the parents that are learning to care for their baby. Music Therapy can be used to offer live music at the bedside to decrease the discomfort and distress while procedures are taking place. It has provided a much needed distraction for the infant, helping to keep them calm, reassured and focused in the right direction. The parents, while learning and doing this procedure have also commented that the singing and guitar have kept them calmer, happier and more focused, making the procedure go more smoothly. Often everyone in the room is singing along, and the associations with this procedure become more positive and confident. It also creates positive coping tools that the family can use while continuing this procedure once they are home.