Alan David Gould

Musical Room Visits for Rehab

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Musical Room Visits for Rehab

Alan David Gould

Many musicians work solo from time to time, but never consider the possibilities for working one on one with patients on rehab units. This type of highly specialized work provides an opportunity for an extensive amount of performance time without electronic reinforcement, in intimate and reasonably quiet surroundings. The work is well supported by a variety of health care professionals and appreciated most of all by the patients, compromised as they are by a variety of infirmities and often in a vulnerable state. Here are some helpful hints for those players that may find an opportunity to do this type of work.


Cover the territory: There are going to be too many people to see and too little time, but you still are expected to cover the unit. Some patients will refuse the opportunity to hear music; let the inevitable refusals roll off and move on to other patient rooms. Move quickly between rooms, but maintain a quiet equilibrium with the patients themselves. Focus.


Don’t jump to conclusions about people: Try to avoid having expectations for the way any given individual will respond to your offer to serenade them when you first walk into the room. They may be ill or recovering from having been sick or having had surgery and they are somewhat vulnerable. Don’t second guess a persons receptivity until you are in front of them and in their airspace. Some rehab patients may not be entirely coherent (or even verbal), yet they may indeed show you with some physical sign or semblance of whatever speech they are able to manage, that they really do want to hear music.


It’s their space: Approach the patient quietly and respectfully. It’s their room and their space. Knock quietly before entering and make eye contact. There are a number of genteel ways to ask if the person would like to be serenaded. The main thing is to be polite and unobtrusive. Tone it up or down (in volume, that is), depending on the patients ability to hear, their receptivity, and most importantly, their current state of health. Once again, some people may simply not be feeling up to a musical room visit; respect that and do not force the issue.


Do the homework: There will be a lot of requests for various tunes. It would be wise to familiarize yourself with the top 500 or so popular, international songs spanning a variety of different genres. Most people will tend to request from this list. Go with the patient’s request, if at all possible. In the event that you don’t know the request, write it down and make the effort to learn it. Each time you get a new tune under you belt, you increase your ability to play whatever is requested of you. Each time you don’t, there you are; back in the same predicament. Be conscientious about doing the homework.

There will be distractions: Staff, patients and family members will interrupt you with compliments or requests to serenade specific patients. Honor those requests in so far as you reasonably can. This is also one of your priorities.

Staff considerations: Respect and work with other therapists who are on the unit working with the rehab population. Allow them to do their work, but join with them in working with the patients when invited to do so and when appropriate. Always remember, however, that they’re on the clock and that their time with the patient is important, even critical. Try not to interfere with actual medical procedural care. Be respectful to charge nurses and medical staff. They spend more time than you do on the unit and know the patients much better than you are ever likely to in an hour or two.  Follow their lead where suggestions regarding individual patients are concerned. Be considerate about performing tunes in rooms directly across from the nurses’ station. Try not to interrupt conference or instructional activity regarding patient care.


Precautions: Pay attention to precautions when entering rooms on rehab. Be careful not to spread germs from room to room. Avoid setting anything down in a patient’s room where you see contact or other precautions posted. Be careful not to cross pollinate germs between rooms. Wash your hands thoroughly before and after leaving a rehab unit.

It’s about them: Try to engage the person by listening to, supporting and reinforcing the general nostalgia which the songs will inevitably evoke. Follow that path with every individual or group of individuals. That is your key to success and one of your keys to the universe.


©2011 Alan David Gould. All rights reserved.

©2011 Alan David Gould. All rights reserved