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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


Join the conversation:

Photo of Lee-Jung Kim

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

Photo of Lee-Jung Kim

Andrea Kang Here is the link to the video. Please include this within the post. I think there is a place you can insert URL so that the video appears.

Photo of Andrea Kang

I had added the video yesterday directly into the post. I don't know why it isn't showing up now. It was a huge file so it did take a while to upload. Thank you for the URL -- much easier!

Photo of Lee-Jung Kim

@Andrea, can you please upload the prototype video for last night's session? I think that will give more understanding of how it can play out in the hospital setting in particular related to those who are at the end of their life.

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

Would love to see the video!

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

@Andrea Kang @Lee-Jung Kim great to see this new idea emerging from the prototyping session following up @NYC OpenIDEO Chapter ideation session. Sorry I missed the session which looked great. You're right that music can be powerful and like also the idea of connecting care givers and patients. You might want to check Ned'sidea and then 2 other ideas that are related to music:
you might want to build upon these ideas. 

I'm wondering for the prototype if you could explore the connection with the Mother Theresa Foundation. 

Based on Ned's idea, do you think there's something important of having the care takers doing this or could volunteers sing?  As this is connected with the Nurses Matter too idea, I can see this having some importance but I think refining this would be important. Looking forward to seeing this idea evolve.