As you walk into Pullman Regional Hospital, you enter the lobby that has floor-to-ceiling windows and a welcome desk that is always attended by hospital volunteers. But one thing catches your eye: the grand piano on the left side of the main hallway. This piano is available for volunteers to play music that drastically changes the atmosphere of the hospital environment.
When we were young children, many of us thought that doctors were terrifying people with their sharp needles and scary face masks. Nowadays, it’s not fear that makes us wary of hospitals. It is simply the unpleasant atmosphere we associate with hospitals because people go to them for a myriad of unpleasant reasons. On the contrary, one idea that the staff and volunteers of PRH want to promote is the idea of community. Pullman Regional Hospital is not just a place for sick people, its a community built upon a common goal: to help people. Having music as ambient noise throughout the hospital helps achieve this goal and alleviates the disagreeable feeling many people, not just children, have about hospitals and doctors. Even if the apprehension of doctors isn’t lessened, having music simply puts people at ease.
I’m sure most students can attest to the fact that music relieves stress and relaxes them. Many students listen to music while doing homework or while performing tasks to concentrate, while others listen to music to relax after a stressful day. Research shows that if a song has 60 beats per minute, the brain synchronizes with the beat and releases alpha brain waves (University of Nevada, Reno). Alpha brain waves are typically released during periods of low stress and calmness for the brain. When these waves are released, the brain generally goes into alpha, which is a state of rest for the brain. Now imagine the effect of music in a hospital setting where you have patients stressed about their health, doctors and nurses stressed about their patients, family members stressed about their family in the hospital. It would only take a trip to the lobby of the hospital for some of their stress to be alleviated, which would be immensely beneficial, even if it’s just temporary. Nicole Holt, the volunteer coordinator at PRH, says:
“There is positive energy throughout the hospital when music is being played. When music is playing the staff notice and love the change of atmosphere. You’ll hear them humming along with the music, it can be a stress relief for the nurses after they deal with a hard case.”
Nicole also talked about how the hospital has specialized musicians who go into patients’ rooms who are at the end of their lives. The musicians put the patients at ease and help them move through the process.
As the holiday season is among us, let us take time to think about the people who don’t have the time to celebrate because they or a loved one is in the hospital. When a family is experiencing trying times, the simple pleasure of listening to a musician play can be enough to offer a moment of peace.
If you are interested in playing at PRH, reach out to Nicole Holt through her email: Nicole.firstname.lastname@example.org. To play, you must fill out an application and go through an interview/audition so the hospital staff can assess whether or not you would be a good fit. After you are accepted, you would then go through the hospital’s orientation—which entails learning about safety protocols and confidentiality rules, as well as getting familiar with the hospital layout—before beginning.
Music is something to be shared. Not only is it nice to listen to, but it also provides medical benefits that would greatly benefit the hospital setting. So, if you are a musician, let the music volunteer program at PRH provide you a great space for practicing and performing and an opportunity to get involved in community service.