Royal Columbian Hospital NICU & Pediatrics

New Westminster, BC


Charles & Eve Chang Foundation


Contact Us To Support This Program

When a premature baby spends time in our NICU, it can be a heart-wrenching experience for their caregivers. The music therapy program provides caregivers with an outlet to experience joy and develop precious bonds with their new baby that will last a lifetime. Thank you sincerely to Music Heals for bringing the gift of music to families in our NICU.” 

Jeff Norris

President & CEO of Royal Columbian Hospital Foundation

Royal Columbian Hospital (RCH) is a regional referral facility for neonatal intensive care that serves the entire Fraser Health region – from Burnaby to Boston Bar. Typically, 800 premature babies are cared for on an annual basis. Since 1997, the Canadian Neonatal Network has recognized RCH’s Variety NICU as consistently ranking among the top in the country for achieving excellent survival rates for babies who are born before their due date and very low rates of complications related to prematurity. Of course, premature babies require comprehensive care, especially in their early weeks of life. In 2019, a music therapy program was initiated in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Royal Columbian Hospital (RCH) with the support of Music Heals Charitable Foundation. This added another important tool to support their growth, development and healing – while helping to establish bonds with their caregivers. Twice a week, music therapist Katherine Deane provides one-to-one sessions with premature infants and their caregivers in our NICU. While these babies are medically stable, they can be as young as 28 weeks gestational age.


Depending on the nature of the care required, premature infants and their caregivers may be transferred to RCH from other parts of the province. Overall, the population served by RCH is one of the more diverse in the country, with 41% visible minorities, and 34.9% newcomers to Canada.

How does Music Therapy uniquely address the needs of clients at Royal Columbian?
  • Helps reduce distress behaviours among premature infants by increasing self-regulation and increasing oxygenation saturation
  • Slowly rouse babies from sleep in preparation for feeding
  • Creates a sense of calm during painful procedures
  • Significant benefit for both premature infants and their caregivers:

“The most common feedback we receive from caregivers in the NICU is how music therapy strengthens their bond with their baby. Often, parents share that they ‘don’t sing’, but they are inspired to join Katherine when they witness the many benefits for their baby. Many parents have shared that music therapy helps to create a calm and tranquil environment – not just for the babies, but for the caregivers as well. One parent stated “what a lovely way to show my love in a very sweet and personal way.” This has been particularly important as caregivers face the added complexities of caring for a premature infant during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

How has COVID-19 impacted the program?

Extra PPE precautions have been put in place. In addition to one-to-one sessions with premature infants and their families, Katherine also introduced a zoom session to introduce caregivers to the benefits of music therapy for their children

From June 2019 to April 2020, over 600 music therapy sessions were provided for 213 pre-term infants and their families at Royal Columbia NICU until the end of March, 2022. Adopting this program would mean the continuation of one-to-one music therapy sessions as well as Zoom sessions after the children return home with their caregivers.

Katherine Deane

“I have been working as a NICU Music Therapist at the Royal Columbian Hospital NICU since the Spring 2019. In that time, I have had the privilege to work directly with patients with following objectives in mind: settling infants to a deeper sleep, soothing during times of digestive discomfort, assisting with pain management during blood work, and providing opportunities for cognitive development. I have also worked with parents and caregivers at the bedside to facilitate parent-infant bonding, increase parental confidence, create and modify songs of kin that are meaningful to the family, promote relaxation, and provide emotional support when needed. It has been a deeply rewarding experience to empower parents to sing with their infants and to sing with their children when they are not able to be at their side.”

You can help us reach more Canadians with the healing power of music. We invite you to give the gift of music to provide hope, strength, relief and encouragement to Canadians in need.

No contribution is too small!