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Connecting Caretakers and Patients with the Power of Music

Doctors and nurses form a caroling band that brings patients' favorite songs right to their bedside.

Photo of Andrea Kang
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Who is your idea designed for and how does it reimagine the end-of-life experience?

Singing or listening to music can radically change one's mood. Music is powerful and it's personal. Patients are admitted to hospitals, of course, to be treated for illness. But what if we could break that pragmatic reality and impart a joyful connection to the caretakers and the environment? As caretakers take time to share their patients' favorite music, they forge new shared experiences that forms a dynamic deeper than the professional caretaker-patient relationship and closer to friendship.

Most everyone knows the song "Let it Be" by the Beatles or "Respect" by Aretha Franklin or the US national anthem. Most teens today could sing along "Baby" by Justin Bieber, and most 90's kids will recognize Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit."

Why? Because music defines and unites generations and even people across generations. That is the power of music. 

We thought, how might we bring that visceral effect of music to the end of life experience?

The idea began with one of our team members who recently volunteered at the Mother Teresa Foundation. The volunteers began every day with breakfast and a chorus of two songs, a morning welcome song and a goodbye song for any volunteers who were leaving the program that day. The ritual of singing together created a sense of community and invigorated the group with purpose and renewed energy. 

The caroling program begins with the patient's first day in the hospital, where we would ask them to share their favorite music or song with us. They can opt into the program or opt out.  

Nurses, doctors and caretakers can then find their patient's song requests through an online platform. Caroling practice happens every week in the 'wellness center' a space where nurses, doctors and staff can rest or take classes and workshops.

The purpose is to bring an element of surprise and delight to the patients' hospital experiences and help them incorporate something from their life before the hospital. 

Another continuation of this idea is to host karaoke talent shows where patients and caretakers can pair together to sing.

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

Work with one caretaker, his/her co-workers and a patient to see if this experience brings a positive reaction.

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

Patient interviews, caretaker interviews. Logistics. On the ground observation of whether this could be incorporated into the logistics of every day work in the hospital.

This idea emerged from

  • A group brainstorm


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Photo of Lee-Jung Kim

Andrea Kang Love the video! I think you should have done the Justin Bieber song ^^

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