Art proves it’s healing powers

Both music and visual art can play a major role in reducing pain and decreasing physical symptoms of illness. They both allow patients a way to release stress and process trauma. Research shows that musical therapy is used to improve physical health and improves motor skills in premature infants. Tallahassee Memorial Hospital and Florida State University College of Music came together in March 1999 to start Arts in Medicine and Music Therapy Program.

“The AIM program is designed to improve hospital aesthetics for patients, visitors, and staff through art performances and interaction with the patients,” said Miriam Hillmer, coordinator of Arts in Medicine and medical music therapy program at TMH.

“The Medical Music program is designed to address specific patient needs through the use of music,” said Hillmer.

Since the partnership between TMH and FSU began, the music therapy program has helped numerous patients in departments such as pediatrics, cardiovascular, internal medicine, oncology, neonatal intensive care unit and the women’s pavilion.

Although the AIM and MTP assist several departments at TMH, one that is particularly used and has shown dramatic effectiveness is the neonatal intensive care unit, according to research.

“Music therapists usually provide two types of interventions: multimodal stimulation and pacifier activated lullaby for the NICU,” Hillmer said.

The MMS treatment helps the newborn to learn to deal with stimulation and reduce stress. The treatment consists of lullaby singing and a guitar as the main instrument.

Weight gain is shown to be an effective tool in the process. Also the PAL treatment helps the child learn how to suck a pacifier. The pacifier is attached to a sensor, and once the babies begin to suck, music plays for 10-15 seconds.

“Studies shows this intervention has been effective in increasing a child’s feeding endurance and in learning non-nutritive sucking,” said Shelley Frazier, RN, lactation and consultant, education coordinator at TMH.

Evidence of the power of art comes at a time when hospitals and health care companies are cutting costs, showing that the arts can help. Using music instead of medication to lull children to sleep, for example, can substantially reduce the cost of echocardiograms by eliminating the need for nurse supervision of medication and reducing procedure time, according to a 2002 cost-benefit analysis at Tallahassee Memorial.

Hillmer said live music played in neonatal intensive care units can send premature infant girls home 11.9 days earlier and male premature infants go home 1.5 days earlier versus infants who do not receive therapy.

“TMH’s contributions have been essential to the success of the Medical Music Therapy/Art’s in medicine program,” said Hillmer, who added that Linda Frimmel and Shelley in the NICU have continually lent their support to the program.

Certified tumor registrar Dawn Nguyen said the musical therapy has helped the patients in a way other treatments has not. FSU College of Music officials were not available for comment.