Music’s Role in Healing

During World War I and II, doctors discovered that music relieved soldiers’ physical and emotional distress, especially those suffering from what is now known as Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). With the advent of the hospice care movement in the 1970s, the correlation between music and healing became evident. Nurses who pursue a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree are likely to encounter the practice of incorporating music into patient care.

Why Is Music Effective in Healthcare?

Music has the power to soothe, stimulate and evoke memories. For patients with neurological diseases, studies have found that music can elevate mood, enrich cognitive skills and reduce their dependence on antipsychotic drugs.

Biologically, music positively affects patients by lowering their heart rate, blood pressure and cortisol levels. Used in healthcare settings, music can ease depression, anxiety and chronic pain. Listening to and playing music correlates with increased production of the antibody immunoglobulin A and other natural killer cells. These cells protect against invading viruses and strengthen the immune system.

Music Therapists and Healthcare

Music therapists are professionals who can work in the healthcare industry. They typically hold a bachelor’s degree or higher in music therapy from a college or university approved by the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA). They must complete 1,200 hours of clinical training.

After music therapists earn their degrees, they need to also earn a Music Therapist — Board Certified (MT-BC) credential issued by the Certification Board for Music Therapists. Some states require licensure for board-certified music therapists.

Music therapists interact with adults, children and infants. They work to reduce the symptoms of many conditions such as dementia, autism, asthma and Parkinson’s disease.

The duties of a music therapist may include the following:

  • Managing stress.
  • Alleviating pain.
  • Enhancing Memory.
  • Improving communication.
  • Increasing motor function.c

Health Conditions and Music

Music has a variety of uses in healthcare settings like operating rooms, intensive care units (ICU) and nursing homes. According to a 2013 pediatric study “The Effects of Music Therapy on Vital Signs, Feeding, and Sleep in Premature Infants,” pre-term babies in neonatal care units (NICU) and their parents experienced less stress, and the sleeping and eating patterns of the infants improved, when they listened to live lullabies.

Patients diagnosed with cancer not only suffer from the physical aspects of the disease but they can also develop severe anxiety due to constant worry about their treatment and progress. If a cancer patient’s anxiety goes unaddressed, it can turn into depression. Studies have concluded that patients who engage in alternative therapies like music therapy can reduce their anxiety.

Moreover, music can alleviate pain and anxiety for patients in ICU. Music provides a comforting environment to assist patients with sleep deprivation and in some cases reduce the duration of a patient’s stay. For patients entering an operating room, music helps them relax them before surgery.

Music and Healing in an Online BSN Degree Program

California State University at San Marcos (CSUSM) offers an online RN to BSN program. Students in this program can take a course titled Culture and Medicine: Healers and Healing Practices. This course explores the relationship between cultures and societies and how they deal with illness. Students examine healers and healing approaches such as medicinal herbs, pharmaceuticals and music.

The application of music and healing in healthcare is essential to understanding the interaction between the brain and the body. Music therapy can affect electroencephalographic brainwave activity, which produces a state of relaxation and alertness that is therapeutic for patients. Thus, music is a beneficial supplement to optimal patient care that healthcare providers should not ignore.

Learn more about the CSUSM online RN to BSN program.


Retrieved from Culture and Medicine: Healers and Healing Practices. (n.d.). CSUSM: Culture and Medicine: Healers and Healing Practices ANTH 301

Retrieved from 2016 Music Therapy AMTA. (n.d.). American Music Therapy Association

Retrieved from FAQs. (n.d.). American Music Therapy Association: FAQ’s

Retrieved from Friedman, M., PhD. (2014, February 4). Does Music Have Healing Powers? Psychology Today: Does Music Have Healing Powers?

Retrieved from Geist, M. (2015, July). The Healing Power of Music. AARP Health: The Healing Power of Music

Retrieved from Kloss-Hefferan, F., RN. (2013, September 19). The Sound of Therapy. Advance Healthcare Network: The Sound of Therapy

Retrieved from Loewy, J., Stewart, K., Dassler, A., Telsey, A., & Homel, P. (2013, April). The Effects of Music Therapy on Vital Signs, Feeding, and Sleep in Premature Infants. AAP News & Journals Gateway: The Effects of Music Therapy on Vital Signs, Feeding, and Sleep in Premature Infants

Retrieved from Music Therapy. (n.d.). Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta: Inpatient Rehabilitation Program

Retrieved from Novotney, A. (2013, November). Music as Medicine. American Psychological Association: Music as Medicine

Retrieved from Supnet, C., PhD, Crow, A., RN, Stutzman, S., PhD, & Olson, D., RN, PhD, CCRN. (2016, April). Music as Medicine: The Therapeutic Potential of Music for Acute Stroke Patients. American Association of Critical-Care Nurses: Music as Medicine: The Therapeutic Potential of Music for Acute Stroke Patients

Have a question or concern about this article? Please contact us.

Request Information
*All fields required.
or call 844-221-5368