Susan E. Mazer, Ph.D. Blog

Thoughts and ideas on healthcare

Hi, and welcome to my blog! I'm Susan E. Mazer -- a knowledge expert and thought leader on how the environment of care impacts the patient experience. Topics I write about include safety, satisfaction, hospital noise, nursing, care at the bedside, and much more.

How Powerful is Music at the Patient Bedside?

April 24, 2015

Gerard_van_honthorst_-_the_concert_-_1623In the early 1970s, I was performing at the Ben Jonson Restaurant in San Francisco. This Lawry’s establishment bragged of its Elizabethan decor directly imported from England representing the life and times of the 16th century playwright, Ben Jonson.

It had carved fireplaces, ornate ceilings, crystal chandeliers, velvet drapes, and period furniture. For 10 years, I played the harp directly in front of a breathtaking fireplace.

The commitment of Lawry’s to create an environmental theme had no limit. Wench costumes for the waitresses, bard costumes for the bartenders. Even I had a special velvet outfit appropriate to the period.

When you walked into the Ben Jonson, you heard the 16th century music of lutes and flutes. It set the tone for your dining experience.  And, I could easily transition into my own music without disturbing the ambience.

Several years after I started performing there, the Los Angeles-based management decided its restaurant needed an update. So, what did they change? Not the interior, menu, or costumes. They changed the music to easy listening, contemporary genres.

When this happened, staff and patrons both acted differently. The restaurant was noisier, much more commonplace, and far removed from the unique experience that we had all come to know and love.

Needless to say, the modern music lasted only three days.

This story illustrates how important environmental cues are to set the tone of a space.  How it looks, sounds, and smells not only inform behavior, but also communicates a lot about your core mission and values.

In hospitals, the physical environment also informs the trust that patients and families place in their caregivers.  That’s one of the reasons why we created The C.A.R.E. Channel — to create a portal to health, a sacred space at the patient bedside that is far from ordinary.

And it’s why we encourage our C.A.R.E. Channel clients to have it playing on the television when patients enter the room or waiting area. Like the Elizabethan-themed music in the Ben Jonson restaurant, it sets the tone for an extraordinary experience.

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