Music Therapy + Child Life | Calming Patients, Healing Patients

Everly is a sweet and smiley toddler who happens to have MMIHS (megacycstis microcolon intestinal hypoperistalsis syndrome), a rare genetic syndrome. She receives music therapy and child life services during her weekly visits to Altru for dressing changes and lab draws. These appointments had always caused a sense of fear.

Yet, music therapy and child life services at Altru have helped melt away Everly’s anxiety.

“We are able to sing favorite songs with Everly, her parents and the staff doing the procedure,” explains Leslie Saulsbury, Altru’s Board-Certified, Licensed Music Therapist. “This allows her to feel more comfortable, which results in the procedures going much smoother.”

“Through the use of age appropriate distraction, toys, and comfort positioning, Everly is able to complete her weekly appointments with a smile on her face,” adds Melissa Swenson, Altru’s Certified Child Life Specialist.

Though music therapy and child life make a “dream team,” as Everly’s family calls it, music therapy and child life can co-treat, but frequently work with separate patients throughout Altru Health System.

Rocking & Rolling & Healing
Leslie provides music therapy for patients of all ages in the medical/surgical unit, orthopedics, cardiac care, pediatrics, inpatient psychiatry, NICU, intensive care, surgical critical care, palliative care and oncology.

She uses clinical and evidence-based music interventions to help patients accomplish individualized goals. Through music, she helps patients like Everly reach non-musical goals, such as managing pain, anxiety or stress, enhancing wellness, expressing feelings or improving communication.

“To do this, we can play music, listen to music, write songs, improvise or engage in music-assisted guided imagery and relaxation,” explains Leslie. “Anyone can participate, regardless of musical ability. I’m using music to help patients cope during their hospital stay.”

And if patients are coping well, their whole hospital experience can have a more positive outcome.

In 2015, Altru made history by being the first hospital in the state of North Dakota to fund a music therapy position, and thousands of patients and families have been able to benefit from these services.

Instruments, equipment, and recorded music used in the program are funded by grants and donations. All music therapy services are complimentary for our patients.

Playing & Exploring & Healing
The child life program, which has been in place at Altru for 23 years, is a complimentary service to pediatric patients and families.

“I help families cope with the challenges of hospitalization, illness and end of life by providing age-appropriate information, emotional support, developing coping strategies and guidance to parents, siblings and extended family members,” explains Melissa. “I help explain a child’s diagnosis in ways they can understand, reducing fear, anxiety and pain.”

Melissa provides support using coping strategies and distraction with patients for procedures such as catheters, lab draws, IV starts, scans and dressing changes. When kids are prepared for what they will experience and are distracted with age appropriate activities, they will cope better with their procedure and it will be more positive for the medical team and their family.

Child Life is run by donations and is a complimentary service to approximately 2,500 pediatric patients and families a year.

Everly’s mom, Erin, shares, “Music therapy and child life has helped us make a scary experience for our daughter each week an enjoyable one. We are beyond grateful for this. She truly loves seeing these wonderful therapists each week and taking part in the singing and dancing.”

For more information about the music therapy program, or questions about donations, contact Leslie Saulsbury, MT-BC/L at lsaulsbury@altru.org.

For more information about the child life program, or questions about donations, contact Melissa Swenson, CCLS at mswenson@altru.org.

See also: Providing Comfort to Children through Song

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *