Guest Post by Annie Donaldson: Work Experience: Shadowing a Music Therapist in a Hospital Stroke Unit

Two years ago I graduated from the University of Winchester with a degree in music. During my studies, I became interested in the work of Music Therapists and following graduation have started the journey in preparation for applying for an MA Music Therapy course.

In the past year I have completed a sixth-month work experience placement following a Music Therapist in a primary school for children with additional needs, and I have now started my second work experience placement in a completely different setting: a hospital stroke unit. I was set up with the placement by Chiltern Music Therapy, a not-for-profit organisation based in Buckinghamshire.

When I began my placement a month ago, I anticipated what it would be like in a hospital setting; I knew close to little about the medical aspects of a stroke and I had not worked in such a high-level activity environment before. It was quite clear that I would have been completely misplaced if it was not for Ellie, the Music Therapist with specialist training in Neurologic Music Therapy, who assisted me in adapting to the new environment: introducing me to the different therapists in the ward (occupational, speech and language, physio), familiarising me with new terminology that would support the written clinical notes after patient sessions and generally demonstrating how the Music Therapy service operated on the wards.

It has been a good introduction to seeing Music Therapy in this environment, particularly as all of the sessions I have observed took place in the acute ward, rather than the hyper-acute ward, where I feel I would have been emotionally over-whelmed. It is lovely to experience the positive atmosphere that carries amongst the acute ward; not just the staff, but the patients always seem welcoming and, when Music Therapy sessions take place, it is not just the patients that get excited to get out of their beds and join in with music-making, but the other therapists are intrigued to participate, watch, assist and learn.

This is one aspect that I have seen that makes music so appealing to the stroke patients as the opportunity for music-making really does inspire patients to interact in the activities.  It is truly inspirational to see the other therapists work collaboratively with the Music Therapist to achieve the same goal: improve the physical and mental well-being of the patients and support their rehabilitation.

During the past month, I have noticed several patients that have been appreciative of being part of an activity that is both distracting from their discomfort and supporting improvement in speech and movement. I am excited to continue this work placement for the next couple of months and to learn more about the ways that Music Therapy can have a positive impact on people’s lives.

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ellieruddock Written by:

Ellie received her MA in Music Therapy from Roehampton University, and undertook additional training to receive certification as a Neurologic Music Therapist. She is a full-time member of the Chiltern Music Therapy team as well as the Therapy Manager for the organisation, and has experience of working individually and running groups with adults, older adults, children and infants across a number of health and social care sectors, including learning disabilities, ASD, mental health, brain injury and dementia. Alongside her music therapy work Ellie was previously a Trustee for the British Association for Music Therapy.

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