Reflections on a student’s placement experience in a hospice: Setting up a new music therapy service.
Background: Research has shown that a music therapy service brings value to a hospice setting. Patients receive treatment in hospices for numerous symptoms that can be experienced with terminal illness. Due to its holistic nature, music therapy is relevant to a hospice’s philosophy of care in providing psychological, physical, social and spiritual support. Music therapists at any level of practice may be involved with setting up new services in various settings a well as evaluating the perceived impact on patients and members of staff. Students may experience this process as part of their clinical placement during music therapy training. There have been studies indicating the value of music therapy within hospice settings. However, there is less research regarding student music therapists reflecting on and evaluating their work in setting up a new service in a hospice. Methods: This investigation consists of student reflections and a service evaluation component on patient and staff perceptions of the new music therapy service within a hospice. Reflections were based from the student’s reflective journal. In addition, quantitative data was collected and analysed from questionnaires containing multiple-choice questions, a Likert scale statement and a text box for further suggestions and comments. These were distributed to patients and members of staff during a seventeen-day evaluation period from 6th March until 22nd March. Results: Broader reflections from the student music therapist indicated several aspects to consider when setting up a new music therapy service such as integrating into a multidisciplinary team, advocating for music therapy and professional identity boundaries. Results from the service evaluation component showed that patients and staff perceived the music therapy service as adding value to the hospice. Patients stated that the open music therapy group sessions provided a distraction from illness, encouraged creative interactions with others, helped them to relax and made the environment more pleasant. Members of staff stated that the piano playing sessions elevated their mood, initiated conversations, made the working environment more pleasant, evoked memories, provided emotional support and helped them to be with others without having to talk. Despite the limitations, and the small scope of reflections and evaluation component, it can be concluded that music therapy impacted on patients and members of staff in a beneficial way. Conclusion: The findings from the reflections and evaluation component, to a degree, presented new information about the processes of setting up and evaluating a new music therapy service in a hospice. The evaluation component has succeeded in meeting its aims and objectives as it helped to locate aspects that worked well and areas in need of improvement. Suggestions for setting up differently were also signposted. Keywords music therapy, palliative care, student, reflections, service evaluation, hospice