Listening to Music During the Covid-19 Crisis… Works Even in the ICU

Listening to Music During the Covid-19 Crisis… Works Even in the ICU

May 12th, on the birthday of Florence Nightingale, stichting MuzIC re-started playing their regular musical interactions after a 3-month lockdown. They played at the Jeroen Bosch Ziekenhuis in Den Bosch (Netherlands)

The violin and guitar tunes played went well with the rising positive ambiance of the ICU.

The first reactions of patients, both Covid-19 and non-Covid-19, were a welcome distraction after a long period of silence.

At the beginning of March, 2020, all the musical activities of stichting MuzIC came to an abrupt end. Covid-19 had entered the Netherlands, and as a precautionary measure the foundation paused their musical interactions at all of their ICU’s in consultation with the connected hospitals.

Playing music at an ICU can be an intense experience for both musician and patient. Therefore the MuzIC musicians are trained to play in such an intense environment and circumstances. Different studies show a positive effect of live music on patient. The experience of pain is reduced, there’s significant stress relief, and it can cause an improvement of the patient’s mood.

Maria Eldering and Sytse Bakker, both musicians and co-founders of MuzIC, started their visit in a regular way after a meeting with the staff of the ICU of the Jeroen Bosch Ziekenhuis. While entering the patient’s room they played a soft melody, not known by the patient. It’s a specially composed song which will get the patient used to the sounds of a violin and guitar.

When the introductory music ends, most of the time there will be some sort of reaction by the patient. It can be a raised eyebrow, a wave of the hand, or a vocalization. This reaction leads to a second song. A lot of patients ask for a certain song they want to hear. If possible, the musicians will play a part of the music asked for.

This way of working was not different on the 12th of May, just with more intensity. The Jeroen Bosch Ziekenhuis was the first hospital in the Netherlands to be hit by an overload of Covid-19 patients. The whole staff has been working for almost two months at their peak and the heaviness was almost tangible and perceptible. The patients who were visited by Maria and Sytse were all Covid-19 or Covid-19 related.

At one of the patients’ bedside, who was sedated, they played a soft improvisation based on two chords. The patient’s heavy breathing went down and one of the ICU nurses said; “I haven’t seen his blood pressure drop so low for weeks.” This was a good sign. The patient reacted well to the music played.

In another room, while playing “Roller Coaster” (a famous song in the Netherlands by Danny Vera) all the staff and nurses gathered around the patient and sang along. They even shed a couple of tears. It was an emotional experience for both patient and staff. To end this musical interaction, Maria and Sytse played “Que Sera, Sera.” The patient, on his 38th day in ICU, began clapping and singing along. It was such a joyful situation.

As by a request of one of the patients they played “Country Roads” for all the staff and nurses in the box between the Covid-19 and non-Covid-19 cohort. The white (non-Covid-19) and blue (Covid-19) nurses did a hilarious sing-off-contest to celebrate the ‘dag van de zorg’.

In the near future stichting MuzIC will be returning to all of their connected ICU’s to restart their musical interactions.