Music Making and Healthcare

Over the last three years, Youth Music have invested nearly £1 million in projects that provide music-making activities for children and young people in healthcare settings. This could be in any healthcare facility working with young people, including children’s wards in hospitals.

Getting the chance to take part in music-making while in hospital or another healthcare facility has been shown to benefit children and young people in a number of ways. 

Challenges for young people

Many of the children and young people in the settings where these projects take place are facing really tough challenges. Aside from their health issues, which are often serious, some of these young people will have to spend extended periods in hospital, or may never live at home. Having to spend so much time away from their family and friends can be very frightening and lonely.

They risk missing out on experiences like attending school, making friends and doing many activities their peers take for granted – and therefore missing out on vital opportunities to develop personal and social skills.

In addition, the stressful hospital environment can put a strain on their relationships with the people closest to them, including their parents.

The extent to which children and young people are able to get involved with music-making varies with each individual. For some, even being able to sit up in bed for ten minutes and take part in a short musical activity is extremely difficult.

For most of the time that these young people spend in a healthcare setting, the main focus is understandably on their physical well-being – but music-making can make an important difference to their whole experience.

Musical outcomes

A music project in hospital can give a young person a much-needed opportunity to express themselves and be creative. It’s a chance to learn about new instruments and styles of music. Lots of music leaders have told Youth Music how they’ve seen children develop over weeks and months, gaining the musical confidence to choose their own instrument or say which song they’d like to play.

Some of the children Youth Music work with have trouble interacting verbally, sometimes as a result of their health condition. But through singing or making noises in the context of music-making, they’ve found a way to communicate with the people around them.

And when the time hopefully comes for a young person to leave hospital, the project staff can point them towards further opportunities to make music in their community.

Child learning to play a ukulele in hospital.

“She has no fear and is keen to display her newly found assurances and musical skills with whoever might be around – mum, nurses, doctors, cleaning ladies – she does in fact steal the show.”


Personal outcomes

A simple but important benefit of music-making in hospital is that it’s fun! It can lift a young patient’s mood and alleviate boredom, giving them something to think about other than their illness, and can also be used by medical staff as a distraction from treatments. The sense of achievement that young people take from music-making can be a huge boost to confidence and self-esteem.

Social outcomes

Group music-making sessions in hospital might be the only chance the children on a ward get to interact with each other. Lots of hospital staff have told Youth Music that music activities can create a sense of community between young patients.

There’s a positive impact on the relationship between the children and their parents and siblings too. Music-making opens up communication between members of the family and provides a welcome relief to parents who are often experiencing high levels of emotion and stress.

And finally, lots of people – patients, families and hospital staff – told Youth Music that having music present in the hospital environment simply makes it a more pleasant place to be. It encourages people to laugh, smile and talk with one another.

“Parents stated that the music-making activities were a great idea; often stating that it was a highly pleasant surprise to find a waiting room at hospital so enjoyable and inspiring; and turning a traumatic time into a fun experience.” 


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