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Providence offers hospitalized patients music for healing

January 22, 2008

Wholeness is one of the core values honored at Providence Medical Center, Kansas City, Kan. That is why a new program called “Music for Healing and Transition” is being implemented. The program features harp music played by Sister Sheila Taylor, SCL, a harpist and grade school music instructor.

“Studies show music has a relaxing affect on patients,” Sister Sheila says. “It can help regulate heart and breathing rates, minimize the perception of pain and anxiety, reduce the need for medication and even shorten patient hospital stays.”

Staff at Providence identify patients who may benefit from Sister Sheila’s special ministry of music. Most often, these are patients who are in the hospital’s intensive care unit, who are receiving palliative care, or who request spiritual support. “Sister Sheila’s ministry is an extension of our mission to reveal God’s healing love,” George Noonan, Vice President of Mission Integration, adds. “The music provides spiritual comfort to our patients in their time of need.”

Using her harp, Sister Sheila plays at the patient’s bedside. “I perform different types of music, depending on the patient’s situation,” Sister Sheila explains.  “For example, research shows music that is 60 to 80 beats per minute helps stabilize the heart rate and blood pressure of critically ill patients.” Older adults and children respond best to familiar music. Chronically ill patients enjoy all styles of music, and palliative care patients respond best to music that does not have a definite rhythm.

“By coming to the patient’s bedside, I am able to focus on the individual and respond to their immediate needs,” Sister Sheila adds. “Harp music, in particular, seems to humanize the hospital environment, and even proves calming and peaceful for the patient’s family and the hospital staff.”     

In addition to working with patients at Providence, Sister Sheila teaches music at St. Peter’s Grade School in Kansas City, Mo. and provides music for healing at Ross Hall, the nursing facility at the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth Mother House, Leavenworth, Kan.

Her background includes 30 years teaching elementary music education at St. Peter’s and St. Patrick’s Grade Schools, Kansas City, Mo. She has a degree in music education from the University of St. Mary, Leavenworth, Kan., and masters degrees in music education and music therapy from the University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kan.

“We feel very fortunate to be able to offer our patients this unique music program,” says Barbara Tirrell, R.N., Ma.N., Providence and Saint John interim Vice President of Patient Care Services. “Music can benefit us all, patients, families and staff, offering welcome respite, healing and inner peace in times of stress.”