Music Heightens Sense of Spirituality for Oncology Patients

A study at The University of Tennessee Medical Center shows a strengthened sense of spiritual awareness among surgical oncology patients who had just listened to music of their choice.

A study at The University of Tennessee Medical Center shows a strengthened sense of spiritual awareness among surgical oncology patients who had just listened to music of their choice. The study, conducted by the Pastoral Care Department at the medical center, also showed lower blood pressure and heart rates as well as reduced pain and anxiety levels among the post-op patients who listened to music in a quiet setting.

“There’s a great deal of activity in a patient’s room and I think that may increase their levels of stress and anxiety,” said Rev. LuAnne Prevost, a chaplain resident at UT Medical Center. “Perhaps that small amount of time when they were able to listen to their music gave them an opportunity to rest, relax and reflect.”

The small study of adult cancer patients, titled Patient Preferred Music Listening and Wellness in Interventions for Improving Psychological, Spiritual and Physical Outcomes in the Surgical Oncology Patient, gave patients a choice of what genre of music and even specific songs they’d like to hear for a 15-minute span, without interruption from medical staff or visitors. They were assessed for vital signs, anxiety and pain levels and a series of questions related to spirituality both before and after listening to the music.

Results revealed that following the musical intervention, 87.5-percent of the patients had lower heart rates while about half showed decreases in both the diastolic and systolic blood pressure rates. Half the patients also reported lower pain and anxiety levels. Prevost said she expected similar results based on her review of previous studies, but also learned through her study that 25-percent of the patients responded as having a heightened sense of spiritual awareness.

In the questions pertaining to spirituality, half of the patients gave the strongest answers possible to define their current state of spiritual awareness both before and after listening to music. Researchers suggest that in other parts of the country, where faith of individuals may not be as strong as in Knoxville, Tenn., a similar study could result in greater gains in spiritual awareness.

“We’re certainly in the Bible belt in the Knoxville region and some would even call it the buckle of the belt,” said Prevost. “When patients ask for Southern Gospel hymns for their preferred musical selection, you kind of already have an idea that they have a strong spiritual base.”

The respiration rate among the group of patients studied did not show overall measurable changes.

Pictured above: Rev. LuAnne Prevost (right), chaplain resident, talks with Oncology Unit nursing team leader Carolyn Singer. Singer helped Rev. Prevost identify patients who met the criteria for the music intervention study at The University of Tennessee Medical Center.