Kids At This Hospital Take Center Stage

08/16/2016 10:29 am ET

I’ve just returned from a Sacramento trip to see the new Sophie’s Place at Sutter Children’s Center (partnered with McConnell Music Therapy), and I am beyond words! Enjoy the gorgeous images and guest post, written by the music therapy staff at this state-of-the-art hospital ~

Imagine walking down the long hallway of a pediatric unit. It’s quiet except for the loud machines, beeps, alarms, and hurried footsteps. You pass nurses rushing in and out of rooms. Hushed voices speak of patient care and impending decisions as the colorful walls attempt to brighten the mood. You see families with serious expressions, waiting…..for doctors, nurses, medications, test results…peace.

Courtesy of Darko Stojanovic

Leaving the unit and sounds in the distance, you are met with illuminated silver letters spelling “Shine On” above special doors. These doors open the world of Sophie’s Place, the new room dedicated to music therapy and the patients of Sutter Children’s Center, Sacramento. 

Courtesy of Sugar Rush Photo + Video // SugarRushPhoto.com

The entrance walls display rock ‘n’ roll electric guitars. The flooring is carefully crafted with treble and bass clefs. As you walk closer you hear laughter, singing, drums...music! You are a world away from the sounds of the unit, and in a new room full of opportunity for expression, music, and most of all...connection and hope!

Courtesy of Sugar Rush Photo + Video // SugarRushPhoto.com

The inaugural Sophie’s Place opened in 2013 at Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah. And in April 2016 the second Sophie’s Place opened at Sutter Children’s Center. Football legend Steve Young and his Forever Young Foundation worked with Sutter Health, and local community partners, agencies and donors who shared the vision for music therapy. These community partners generously donated the state-of-the-art music space in Sacramento.

The Forever Young Foundation has 6 more sites planned in the next 2 years, including Mesa AZ, Palo Alto CA, Ann Arbor MI, Miami FL, Tucson AZ, and Winston-Salem NC. (Scroll down for a listing of exact sites.)

Courtesy of Sugar Rush Photo + Video // SugarRushPhoto.com

Steve and Barb Young deeply believe in the power of music therapy and use their time, energy and foundation to bring music therapy to children across the U.S. The legacy of a beautiful young singer-songwriter named Sophie Barton lives on in this room. Sophie shares the room’s namesake, and it was her mission to help others through the power of music. 

Courtesy of Sugar Rush Photo + Video // SugarRushPhoto.com

Why music therapy? Sutter Health in Sacramento has a 20 year history of integrating the expertise of board certified music therapists with traditional medicine to assist patients with pain reduction, relaxation, coping skills, emotional expression and providing family and caregiver support. Music therapists have the MT-BC credential and participate as trained members of the interdisciplinary team. Music therapists receive referrals directly from nurses, child life specialists, chaplains, social workers, and physicians. During the treatment process, music therapists document on patient progress.

The field of music therapy as a profession has been in existence since the 1950’s. Today over 75 colleges offer the music therapy major, and prepare students for their 1200 hour clinical internship and board certification exam. Music therapists use interactive music experiences such as singing, songwriting, lyric analysis, and playing instruments to directly address medical concerns. In addition to Sophie’s Place, music therapy services are offered in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), Pediatric ICU, and individual hospital rooms at Sutter Health.

Courtesy of Sugar Rush Photo + Video // SugarRushPhoto.com

How does Sophie’s Place benefit pediatric patients in the hospital? 
Sophie’s Place...

  • Provides patients and their families a place to get away from the often stressful environment of their room and their unit, and instead offer a musical oasis where kids and their families can experience music in unlimited ways.
  • Allows opportunities for choice, control, and expression in the hospital where choice is often limited.
  • Brings relief and diversion from long hours or sometimes days and weeks of waiting for updates, results, and progress.
  • Provides a physical space to build a community, create new friendships, and receive support when patients need it the most.
Courtesy of Sugar Rush Photo + Video // SugarRushPhoto.com

As pediatric Music Therapists, we are beyond excited for this space. Sophie’s Place includes a common area for groups, a high-tech recording room, a private session room, and a large storage space for the generously donated instruments. There is space for children to write and record their own music, a place to be loud and create connections with others, and a place encouraging expression, creativity and most of all….healing. And we now have the resources to envision a range of new services benefitting our patients and their families:

  • Ukulele Groups
  • Drumming/Percussion Groups
  • Structured Improvisations
  • Group Singing/Karaoke
  • Teen Songwriting Groups
  • Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) Parent Support Groups
  • Bereavement Groups for families and staff
  • Staff stress-reduction and team building groups
Courtesy of Sugar Rush Photo + Video // SugarRushPhoto.com

Sophie’s Place has huge implications for hospital patients as well as the field of music therapy. Referrals for individual sessions are on the rise, over 300 referrals per month, as medical staff continue to see the immediate impact on their patients. Some benefits include reduced need for pain medication, shorter lengths of stay, mood elevation, and adherence to treatment protocols.

A dedicated space for music therapy in a hospital setting is a groundbreaking idea, allows more children to be seen, and sets a high-standard for the future of our profession. The visibility of our space has generated great interest and awareness for music therapy within the hospital, community, and educational settings.

Courtesy of Sugar Rush Photo + Video // SugarRushPhoto.com

The demand for highly skilled board certified music therapists in medical settings is increasing nationwide. We look forward to helping other hospital systems duplicate what we have had the privilege of being a part of here in Sacramento. True healing happens when we treat the whole person, and we can do that through music therapy.

Courtesy of Sugar Rush Photo + Video // SugarRushPhoto.com
Daniel Beseda, MT-BC, Hana Cho, MT-BC, and Tara McConnell, MT-BC

Sutter Health has partnered with the team at McConnell Music Therapy Services to provide music therapy services to pediatric, adult oncology, outpatient infusion and inpatient psychiatric units within the Sacramento region.

Contributors:

Hana Cho, MT-BC, Neurologic Music Therapist/NICU Music Therapist; Dan Beseda, MT-BC; and Tara McConnell, MT-BC, Clinical Director/Owner of McConnell Music Therapy Services.

References:

Future Sophie’s Place Sites:

Cardon Children’s Medical Center - Mesa, AZ - December 2016
 
Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital - Palo Alto, CA - 2017
 
CS Mott Children’s Hospital - Ann Arbor, MI - 2017
 
Nicklaus Children’s Hospital - Miami, FL - 2018
 
Diamond Children’s Medical Center - Tucson, AZ - 2018
 
Brenner Children’s Hospital - Winston-Salem, NC - 2018

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