Music Therapy Study

Offers Harmonious Growth Opportunities

by Annie Heiderscheit, PhD, MT-BC, LMFT, FAMI

In 2005, I embarked on a journey with an interdisciplinary research team composed of members from throughout the University of Minnesota.

Our Goal: Complete a Study that Focused on Music Listening Intervention

Our team included a critical care nurse researcher, a critical care physician, a music therapist, a critical care nurse, a pharmacist, a biomedical engineer, an endocrinologist, a statistician, and a study coordinator. I served as the music therapist on the project, assessed patient music preferences, provided patient-preferred music, maintained treatment fidelity in music protocol, and met with patients each day during their enrollment in the study.

Pilot Study Conducted

We conducted a pilot study to test our patient directed music protocol, then applied for an R01 grant through the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The grant, titled ‘Reducing sedative exposure in ventilated ICU patients,’ was awarded in 2006. The nearly $1.4 million grant was awarded to fund a four-year, multi-site study at 5 hospitals and 12 intensive care units throughout the metropolitan area. The study enrolled 373 patients and randomized them into one of the three study groups: patient directed music, noise-cancelling headphones, or usual care. When the study was completed and the primary data was analyzed, the team met to review the results and discuss options for publication. As the team discussed the significance of the results, Dr. Craig Weinert, the ICU physician on the team, suggested that we submit the results to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). The team prepared the manuscript under the leadership of Dr. Linda Chlan, RN, who was the principal lead investigator on the study. The acceptance rate for manuscripts submitted to JAMA is less than 10%, so while the team was confident in the study’s results, we were unsure whether the nation’s premiere medical journal would be interested in a study focused on music listening intervention.

Following a lengthy review process and multiple manuscript revisions, the article was accepted for publication. “The Effects of Patient-Directed Music Intervention on Anxiety and Sedative Exposure in Critically Ill Patients Receiving Mechanical Ventilatory Support: A Randomized Clinical Trial” was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association May 20, 2013.

Immediately following publication, a flurry of media attention ensued. Reporters and news outlets from around the nation sent interview requests to members of the research team. Congratulatory emails poured in from colleagues around the world.
After the initial burst of attention, several invitations arrived with requests to submit future publications to journals and serve on many different editorial boards for other peer-reviewed journals. Once the primary study results were published, the team was able to focus on secondary data.

A Significant Amount of Data

The amount of music data for this study was significant. In writing the manuscript for submission, it was evident that there was more data than what could effectively be initially presented. A manuscript titled “Music preferences of mechanically ventilated patients participating in a randomized controlled trial” has been accepted for publication in Music and Medicine at a future date.

A second manuscript will soon follow to publish the remainder of the music data.

In June 2014, I traveled to Toronto, Canada, where I presented the music data from this study at the International Music and Medicine symposium.

This research trajectory also led to an invitation to write a chapter on music therapy in surgical and procedural support in “Guidelines for Music Therapy with Adult Medical Patients” by Barcelona Publishers. Shortly following the release of the
book, it was translated into Spanish, and demand for this text has been high. Additionally, as a result of the collaborative nature of this work, I co-authored a chapter on music interventions in the latest edition of “Complementary & Alternative Therapies in Nursing,” edited by Lindquist, Snyder, and Tracy and published by Springer.

Many other opportunities followed this frenzy and proved to be quite substantial in nature. One such opportunity included a call from Dr. Linda Chlan, now at The Ohio State University, who inquired about my availability to collaborate on a new study
with researchers from Yale University. This pilot study will explore how a patient-directed music listening protocol impacts symptoms for critically ill patients who commonly experience anxiety, delirium, or sleep deprivation. The pilot study data
will be utilized to support the application of an NIH grant for a multi-site, randomized controlled trial (sites include Minnesota, Ohio and Connecticut).

Other Opportunities

Another opportunity that arose as a result of this study was sparked when a family member of an ICU patient read about the research study. As a result of reading about how music positively impacted ICU patients, this family member decided to tune in to Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) and play classical music for their loved one during their hospital stay.

He was so moved by the research that he also contacted MPR and told them about what he read.

This call prompted MPR to further consider their way of bringing music to their listeners and the role that music can play in their lives, their health, and wellbeing. As a result, MPR contacted me and asked to learn more about music’s healing power. Currently, conversations are underway with MPR to further discover how to help their listeners better understand and make use of the healing power of music. While completing a major study is a significant milestone, it is evident that closing a study leads to many new openings. That has certainly been the case for this study and the publications it produced. The success of this all is truly due to a committed, talented, and interdisciplinary team. It is nothing short of amazing what can be accomplished and created when we work together to improve the health outcomes and wellbeing of our patients.

Dr. Annie Heiderscheit was the recipient of the A. Marilyn Sime Fellowship, which provided funding for her efforts in developing this innovative area of research.

Learn more about music therapy in our interactive online Music Therapy module. You may also learn more about the importance of creative therapies on our Taking Charge of Your Health & Wellbeing site.