Senior Scholars Program

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Medicine, Division of Palliative Medicine

Faculty Mentor

Suzana Makowski

Publication Date


Document Type



Alternative and Complementary Medicine | Life Sciences | Medicine and Health Sciences | Mental and Social Health | Rehabilitation and Therapy


Background: The benefits of exposing hospitalized patients to live music have been well established, both from a quality improvement perspective and as a means of therapy. Hospitals across the country are increasingly seeking to incorporate music into models of patient-centered care. Music offers many benefits to the performer as well, and is well suited for promoting empathic communication, stress relief and a sense of well-being. Medical students in the pre-clinical years who might otherwise experience little patient interaction are able to uniquely engage with patients through musical performance.

Purpose: The purpose of this study was to examine the quality improvement impact of a program that facilitated musical performances given by student volunteers to hospitalized patients.

Methods: Student musicians were recruited via email from the UMass Medical School and the Graduate School of Nursing, with an initial pool of 47 students expressing interest in performing. Over a period of several months, 21 performances were held on the Oncology floor and in the Bone Marrow Transplant unit. Qualitative data was collected via an online survey from the student volunteers and from the nursing staff. Informal feedback was obtained from patients.

Results: The qualitative data collected was almost uniformly positive. Student musicians generally reported positive experiences, and felt that their efforts were appreciated by patients and by the nursing staff. Staff also enjoyed the performances, with most feeling that their workplace environment was positively impacted. Indeed, the major complaint from nursing staff was that the performances were not frequent enough. Although data was not collected from patients, informal questioning indicated that almost all patients enjoyed the experience.

Conclusions: Taken as a whole, student musical volunteering in the hospital setting appears to be of great benefit as both a quality improvement tool and as a means of engaging students with patients. Patients appreciate the personal attention and a break from the monotony of hospitalization, while hospital staff reports a more pleasant working environment. Students are able to connect directly with patients in a non-medical role, which can be deeper and more meaningful than a brief encounter during work rounds. Additionally, pre-clinical students are exposed to the hospital setting and to patients.


Music Therapy, Music, Medical Students, Patients, Hospitalization, Quality Improvement

Rights and Permissions

Copyright is held by the author(s), with all rights reserved.

DOI of Published Version


Journal/Book/Conference Title

Senior Scholars Program


Medical student Daniel Schmolze participated in this study as part of the Senior Scholars research program at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.