Compassionate Care

Music Therapy Programs Give Patients Confidence

Music programs at Shriners Hospitals can bring a smile, boost confidence and even ease patients’ fears

Music can make a tremendous difference in patients’ recoveries. Shriners Hospitals for Children offer a variety of musical opportunities, including music therapy programs. Here are two examples of the power of music within our hospitals.

Promoting healing, one patient at a time

The music therapy program at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Portland is conducted by Keeley Swete under the direction of the hospital’s child life specialists. Swete is a visiting consultant and owner of Singing Tree Music Therapy. She has been a regular visitor to the hospital’s inpatient unit for the past four years and conducts music therapy sessions with our patients twice a week. Every session is tailored to fit each patient’s needs and addresses their long-term goals.

Keeley Swete provides music therapy to patients at the Portland Shriners Hospital.

Music therapy can be beneficial during and after medical procedures, and may be used to help patients with pain management, sleep issues, agitation or disorientation. Music therapy is also used to address patients’ ancillary goals such as socialization, communication and impulse control. In addition, it provides an opportunity for self-expression and can boost self-confidence.

“Our music therapist, Keeley, has become a special part of the child life and patient care team,” said Cindy Millard, certified child life specialist at the Portland Shriners Hospital. “She has taught us that music is a universal language that resonates with our patients of various abilities and ages; that music is therapeutic. Patients with limited verbal skills are able to connect with her in amazing ways. There are several patients who ask for Keeley every time they are admitted to the inpatient unit.”

Earning applause from patients and staff

The four strings of the Hawaiian ‘ukulele possess a magical ability to elicit a smile from visitors from around the world. Be it through a pluck or a strum, the notes produced by this iconic instrument have the ability to soothe, invigorate and heal.

At Shriners Hospitals for Children — Honolulu, we recognize the importance of the ‘ukulele, not only to our local island culture, but also to our patients’ healing, and we have incorporated the instrument into several initiatives.

Our ‘ukulele program is a coordinated effort between the hospital and various local musicians who volunteer weekly to help make our patients smile through the power of music.

“It is one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done in my life. To see the joy that music brings to the children is the ultimate reward,” said instructor Zanuck Lindsey, a member of the ‘Ukulele Guild of Hawai‘i.

The majority of volunteers are musicians with local organizations such as the ‘Ukulele Guild of Hawai‘i and Make ‘Em Smile, but other entertainers also get involved. In the past, we’ve had a few break-dancers and even a puppeteer lend their talents to the program.

“The musicians who play ‘ukulele have been great role models for our patients, and they have all expressed great joy in teaching and engaging with our patients,” said Recreation Therapy Manager Helene Freni-Rogers, noting that Make ‘Em Smile recently donated several new ‘ukulele to the hospital so that patients can practice on their own time.

“We have a handful of teens who are learning how to play. On any given afternoon, you can see and hear them jamming in the rec therapy area,” Freni-Rogers added.

“This is the first time I’ve learned how to play an instrument,” said an 18-year-old patient. “When I play the ‘ukulele, I stop thinking about my pain.”

The program encourages an appreciation for music and builds patients’ confidence and interpersonal skills, which can be seen when patients perform – with beaming smiles – at special events, including our annual May Day program and tea parties hosted by the Ladies’ Oriental Shrine of North America.

“Music is therapeutic and is definitely a part of their overall healing process,” Freni-Rogers said. “Many patients return home with a newfound interest and love for the ‘ukulele instrument and the love and joy that can be shared and gained from its music.”