Kings Mill Hospital, Mansfield (Children’s)

Taking time to be with people

A big part of our work as musicians in hospitals is to be there as a musician and a human being spending time with other human beings, to make music for and with them and to create a cultural venue within a clinical environment.

We often get asked if it is emotionally difficult to spend so much time in hospitals, especially with children. There are, of course, always emotional moments in our practice, and we allow ourselves to be emotional as part of our professional practice, indeed it is important that this emotion becomes part of our music-making to allow us to be ‘in-tune’ with the patients, visitors and staff with whom we work. We must always be careful, however, that we do not project our own emotions onto others – this is also part of our professional undertaking.

It is, however, more normal for us to work with the well-part of the person, to enhance and support the cultural, vibrant, and well part of the person. Medical staff work hard to take a holistic approach to their work, however, they are principally there to treat the illness. We are hugely privileged to be able to take the time for this approach, one which seems to complement and support the work of the hospital staff so well.

Over recent weeks, we have seen this human-to-human approach work so well. In Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, working with elderly patients and those with spinal and neurological injuries, we have recently been able to take more time to explore musical interests with individual patients, to support them in singing and playing musical instruments with us, and to rediscover their creative and cultural selves. Medical staff have observed and taken part in some of these sessions, making new, human-to-human contact with patients and seeing new potential despite their illness or injury. It is fantastic to be able to support these new patient-staff partnerships.

In children’s hospitals, the time spent with individual patients and their families becomes special time, time for a parent and new baby to bond in a neonatal intensive care unit, time for ‘normal life’ to resume if only for a moment, time for music 🙂 When doctors, nurses and other hospital staff become part of these interactions, the space and relationships within the hospital change completely, and we are all human beings together.

Leo Tolstoy wrote (What is Art, 1897):
‘… In order correctly to define art, it is necessary, first of all, to cease to consider it as a means to pleasure and to consider it as one of the conditions of human life… Art is a human activity consisting in this, that one man consciously, by means of certain external signs, hands on to others feelings he has lived through, and that other people are infected by these feelings and also experience them.’

It’s wonderful to be able to share music-making, a ‘condition of human life’, with all those we encounter in hospitals.

More feedback

This time from some of our artistic young participants taking part at children’s hospitals around the region…

Some feedback from the past 2 weeks…

Here’s a small selection of feedback from children’s hospital patients and parents from the past two weeks….

Thank you so much for the musical experience this morning. What a lovely surprise…… it was fantastic that you came in with your instruments so that both children and adults could have some much needed stress relief, entertainment and engagement.

It’s made my stay memorable and I really liked it cause of the guitar as I love them. Thank you.

‘J’ really enjoyed the music. He joined in and enjoyed looking and learning about the different instruments. Thanks for taking his mind off being in hospital.

Your music and songs have really helped cheer my daughter ‘A’ up. Any myself too. It was great to see her smile. You have brought her happy memories back from her holiday. We were all really interested in learning about your instruments. I think you may have encouraged her to get back into her dance now. Also you have helped relax her prior to her MRI today. Thank you. She keeps humming WACKA WACKA and smiling. Thank you very much.

I enjoyed it, thanks very much. It was my first time playing the violin. I liked the sound. OPUS played very well.

‘B’ was in bed when you came in still feeling quite drowsy. Now she’s up and about feeling happy.

The music was a lovely surprise and very calming for the children. ‘J’ especially enjoyed using the instruments and making up his own music.

I have seen the musicians in our daycare ward and in outpatients. It was clear to me that the music was enjoyed by all and so very well received. I was particularly impressed to see the children participating.

It was fab, really cheered everyone up and brought everyone together.

Thank you so much. Wow, what a wonderful lift to all of our days. “We are not poorly any more” Well maybe only a little. Please continue with your wonderful music. x

It’s clear from the great feedback we are receiving that our aim of creating cultural venues within the hospital is really working, allowing children, parents and staff to share music-making together, and within communities of wards, bays and families. Thanks everybody for your feedback, including some fabulous pictures which I will try to post soon 🙂

Playing with spider man

In Kings Mill hospital last Friday we were invited to play in a single bed room for a young boy who was connected to a lot of monitoring equipment and had an oxygen mask on. We played a song for him and his reaction was fairly muted but he did say that he liked it. We took our time and spoke a bit to his Dad who said that he himself was a song writer. We played some improvised music and offered the boy a shaker to see if he would like to join in. He declined it and just looked on. He was making his spider man doll move about a bit to the music and we picked up on this by changing the way that we were playing depending on how he moved the doll. Once he realised that spider man was conducting the band he couldn’t get enough of it. He had a great time determining the pace and duration of the music with his doll and he laughed and smiled as he did so. His Dad said we’d done well to get a smile out of him.

Before we left the room the boy’s dad asked if he could share some words he had written about his son being in hospital and we listened as he did so. He’d written a really moving rap about his love for his son and family. At the end he said ‘Thanks for listening to that… It’s quite hard to get people to listen’.

Music in hospitals gives people the time and space to reveal and express their emotions.

Whistle while you work!

Last Friday was my first visit to Kings Mill Hospital in Sutton in Ashfield. While being guided round the wards for the first time by a member of the play team, Nick and I were invited to play for a young girl who was profoundly disabled and who had very restricted means communication. We played a song for her and her parents seemed very pleased to have us there. After we had played, they mentioned that the girl responded very well to whistling. This was only the second time that Nick and I had worked as a duo and we had discussed a variety of different ways of doing this without Sarah playing the lead melody. Whistling had not been on the list but we took up the gauntlet and set to whistling a version of ‘Maid and the Palmer’. The girl responded with a show of great pleasure, the parents were pleased and I was reminded of the importance of maintaining a versatile and light hearted approach to music making in hospital!

New music in health residencies

As you’ve probably noticed from our lack of blogs recently, OPUS is currently on a summer break. While we’ve not been in the hospitals so much over the past month, much has been going on behind the scenes to finalise arrangements for our new residencies beginning very soon. Thanks to funding and support from Youth Music, Nottinghamshire County Council and Leicester City Council, we are delighted to announce new long-term residencies in children’s wards at three new hospitals beginning in September. These will take place at Leicester Royal Infirmary, Queens Medical Centre, Nottingham and Kings Mill Hospital in Mansfield, with OPUS musicians visiting the hospitals on a weekly or fortnightly basis. This is planned to continue until at least March 2014, though we hope to sustain these residencies beyond this date. We are extremely grateful for the support of our partner hospitals and our funding partners in making these new residencies possible. OPUS has busy and exciting times ahead, with existing residencies continuing at Derbyshire Children’s Hospital and Sheffield Teaching Hospitals alongside training programmes for musicians and healthcare staff. We’re all really looking forward to it!