Patients at TUH feel benefit of Soothing Sounds live music programme

(April 2st 2022) ‘Soothing Sounds’, a live music programme, has returned to Tallaght University Hospital (TUH) after a Covid hiatus to the delight of patients and staff alike. The programme aims to connect with patients and help to improve wellbeing through a mixture of individual or group music sessions.

Funded by the HSE and the Meath Foundation, Soothing Sounds was originally delivered in paediatrics from 2017 to 2020. It was then adapted for adult services following an evaluation. Feedback from patients and staff has been positive with one patient commenting that the programme “made chemo a pleasant experience” and a Clinical Nurse Manager describing how it “relaxes patients, is not too intrusive, is enjoyable and makes the setting less clinical.”

Dr Sophie Lee, a pianist who began in TUH as a volunteer musician in 2015 and became musician in residence in 2018, said the programme has been transformative. Sophie recently completed her PhD at the University of Limerick, supported by the Irish Research Council. Her research investigated the effects of music interventions on the well-being of people living with early-stage dementia and their family carers.

“During each Soothing Sounds session I play music that aims to connect with patients and draw them out of themselves. The selected repertoire fits the remit of ‘soothing’ within the wards I’m playing in and is a varied blend of genres such as classical, pop, folk and Irish traditional. The music played primarily aims to reduce stress in the environment.”

She continues,“At Christmas I was playing piano on a ward and a patient who was a pianist came up to me and asked could he play piano for the patients and staff. A nurse came over, sanitised the piano and got him set up to play. He performed works by Chopin, Beethoven and Gershwin for everyone on the ward! In this moment, staff saw this patient in a whole new light and he got to feel a bit more like himself. If Soothing Sounds didn’t exist he may never have had the chance to play piano while he was in hospital. On reflection, I was struck by the spontaneity, connection and joy that a live music programme can bring to a hospital ward.”

Another day while playing on the oncology ward, Sophie outlined how “a lady arrived for her first chemotherapy treatment. As it happened, her bed was right beside the piano, which she was delighted about as she was a singer. Very excited about having music in the clinical environment, she prepared herself and began to sing as I accompanied her. This completely lifted her mood and the mood of the room. When she sang, ‘Hey Jude’ by The Beatles, two other patients joined in and a sing-song ensued on the oncology ward. What had been a silent, individualised, medical setting had now transformed into a friendly, social, musical space. The patient commented afterwards on how it was amazing how music changed the atmosphere and how it had affected each person on the ward.”

Arts Officer at TUH, Ali Baker Kerrigan, explains, “Soothing Sounds has been a successful live music programme in TUH since 2017. The programme is enjoyed by patients and staff alike, all of whom have noted the positive impacts it has on their wellbeing. This would not be possible without the funding support of the HSE and The Meath Foundation. Our hope for the future is to further expand the programme to other hospital departments so that live music is offered to an increased number of our patients and staff, in addition to our already vibrant arts and health programme in TUH.”


Note to editor: Link to Soothing Sounds video: