The High Tech Heart: A Low-Tech Harp
Having cardiac procedures can be stressful, no matter how much confidence
you have in your doctor. Being in the recovery room can be disorienting and
difficult. You may still have throat tubes and oxygen tubes connected, and
in general, you don't feel very good. Even the nurses who work there often
find it stressful.
In an effort to soothe cardiac patients, hospitals around the country are
participating in a study in which harpists meander through the recovery room
gently playing music. The staff monitors patients' vital signs every 15 minutes
while the harpist plays, and for one hour before and after. They're trying
to measure the health benefits of music in hospitals.
Proponents of this kind of therapy believe that listening to gentle harp
music can help regulate heart rate, blood pressure and breathing. Previous
research has suggested that harp music in particular helps reduce patients'
responses to stress. And live music has much more of a positive effect than
music played on a CD.
There are no official study results yet, but patients who have been part
of the research have said that hearing the harp music helped relax them and
calm them down. And staff members notice that agitated patients become quieter
when they hear the music. Additionally, the staff at the hospital notices
that co-workers are quieter when the music is playing.
The harpists are credentialed in therapeutic music. They generally try to
play pieces that are not easily recognized, in order not to trigger sad or
New York Times, "Now in the Recovery Room, Music for Hearts to Heal By," 28 August 2006; Nursing Spectrum, 23 October 2006