Cookeville Regional nurses utilize music to help patients heal

Monday, May 09, 2022

Evidence shows just how much of an impact music can have in the healing process.

Former patient Debbie Allen can tell you just how much it helped her.

“I came in to the hospital in early March and was in the ICU a few days,” she said. “I was having a very bad time and needed relief.”

That’s when she met Angela Craig, ICU clinical nurse specialist, who provided that relief in the form of music.

“I truly believe in the power of holistic care,” she said. “We can only do so much with medicine, and music touches the soul and eases the stress of the situation.”

Craig was called by Allen’s nurse and wheeled the keyboard – which was purchased by the Foundation -- into Allen’s room and played gospel music.

“I love performing gospel music,” Craig said. “When I started playing the keyboard and singing, I immediately saw a change.”

Craig leads worship for her church, plays the piano and trumpet. Her son also plays the guitar and while he was working as a PCA, he played guitar for patients with his mother.

She’s not the only ICU staff member who utilizes musical talents to help patients heal.

Fellow nurse Todd Arnold is a former music teacher and director.

“I used music as a vehicle not only for education and ministry, but also as part of the healing process in settings such as hospitals, skilled nursing facilities and assisted living facilities,” he said. “After coming to work for Cookeville Regional, I wondered how to reconcile my past career with my current occupation.”

When he learned that a keyboard and guitar had been donated for use in the ICU for music therapy, he was eager to combine his love of music with his passion for patient care.

“Several of my patients have benefited from music therapy,” he said.

Some said they felt relaxed and comforted by the music he played during their hospital stay.

“The hospital chaplain visited another patient and suggested I play a familiar hymn for this patient who was experiencing anxiety,” Arnold said. “Another patient struggling with the aftermath of COVID-19 was having a difficult time tolerating the BiPAP. Attempts to provide medication for this patient met some success, but the patient was still very anxious. Music therapy provided a non-pharmacological treatment modality to relieve that anxiety and ultimately allowed the patient to tolerate the prescribed BiPAP therapy. I believe that music therapy has added an additional component to the holistic care of our patients at Cookeville Regional Medical Center.”

Paul Korth, Cookeville Regional CEO, says this type of care is what being in healthcare is all about.

“Thinking outside the box and using other talents to help patients get better is what makes this team at Cookeville Regional the best in the region, if not the state,” he said. “There are people with amazing talents here and this is just one example.”

Allen believes God placed her in the ICU at the right time.

“Angela is truly a God-send,” she said. “God definitely sends angels in different forms and this music therapy program is a wonderful thing you’ve got going here.”