Royal Columbian Hospital Pediatric Unit

New Westminster, BC

Partially adopted by 

Charles & Eve Chang Foundation

Royal Columbian Hospital (RCH) is one of Fraser Health’s regional pediatric care centres, providing care to more than 1,000 infants, children and adolescents living in the communities of Burnaby, New Westminster, Coquitlam, Port Moody, Port Coquitlam, Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge. Currently, we offer 12 inpatient pediatric beds, and serve up to 3,000 children through both in-patient and out-patient services.

One-on-one music therapy sessions are uniquely tailored to suit the needs and age of the patient. Outcomes include:

  • Patient insights regarding solutions to their current situation, and overall self-awareness;
  • Joyful interactions between parent and child;
  • Transitioning from low mood to higher mood;
  • Relaxation and pain reduction;
  • Parental and patient support during procedural interventions;
  • Memory sharing and bonding between parent and child.

This is the first year that the current music therapist has worked in the pediatric unit at RCH, and they noted the following ways in which music therapy was used to support mental health:

  • Co-created playlists to elevate mood and inspire courage in children battling eating disorders.
  • Supported a patient grappling with gender identity by helping them learn to play the guitar so that they could play along with their favourite song – the lyrics of which related to their gender identity. This process elevated their mood considerably and encouraged them to explore guitar lessons in the future.
  • Utilized song sharing to connect with a patient experiencing suicidal ideation and then analyzed the lyrics in relation to their current situation. The patient came to a realization as to how they could support themselves going forward through this lyrical analysis.
  • Had a meaningful conversation with an adolescent patient arise while casually exploring an instrument. The patient was experiencing anxiety about growing up and all the choices available to them in contrast to their childhood, which seemed much simpler.

Navigating The Ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic

The hospital has continued to offer in-person music therapy throughout the pandemic; 1:1 sessions were not interrupted. They hoped to introduce group sessions in the pediatric unit, but it was not possible to gather as a group with current pandemic protocols in place.

110 patients & families were served during 144 sessions in 2021. Music therapy was offered twice per week (five hours per session) in the pediatric unit.

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.

A few examples of music therapy in action at the RCH Pediatric Unit from Music Therapist Katherine:

“A very young patient was touch adverse and would cry and become visibly upset when any staff needed to touch him. At the end of an assessment, I was able to come in and offer some instruments the patient could play and support their musical exploration by singing about their experience and offering guitar accompaniment. The patient reached over and used the mallets to strum the guitar while I was also playing along with him. During this interaction, I was able to support the patient’s vocal expressions with my own voice to match and be in communication through the musical interaction. By the end of the session, the patient was calm and feeling confident to leave his room and explore the unit.”

“I guided both mother and father through their first musical interactions with their 4 month old by singing along with them and showing them some developmentally appropriate actions to go along with the song that encouraged purposeful touch and eye contact. This interaction elicited smiles and laughter from both the patient and the parents and both parents were eager to try this activity more than once. On another day I was also able to offer a lullaby session as this mother held her baby and sometimes sang along or talked and cooed to her baby. Dad was able to rest nearby on the bed and take in a little relaxation as well. There was a very peaceful feeling in the room at the end of the session.”

Katherine Deane

“I have been working as Music Therapist at Royal Columbian Hospital  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.

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