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Bringing Music to the ICU

The Wellness Lab will make its debut at the 48th Critical Care Congress and will cover a variety of topics, including How to Implement an ICU Musician in an Institutional Setting.
Bringing Music to the ICU

The 48th Critical Care Congress Wellness Lab is designed to give clinicians an opportunity to focus on their own well-being, which is essential for safe and high-quality patient care, as well as reducing stress and burnout.

Catch a performance by medical musician Andrew M. Schulman and learn more about implementing a medical musician in an ICU.

SCCM members Mr. Schulman and Marvin A. McMillen, MD, FACS, MACP, cofounded the Medical Musician Initiative, a nonprofit organization that performs medical music outreach through educational workshops and presentations and by connecting patients and their families with the work of medical musicians.

Mr. Schulman experienced the benefits of music in the ICU firsthand. In 2009, he arrived at the surgical ICU at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York, New York, USA. Pronounced clinically dead after major surgery, he was revived and put in a medically induced coma. Dr. McMillen was Mr. Schulman’s attending physician. Mr. Schulman’s wife Wendy requested permission for him to listen to his favorite music while he was in the coma, and his health stabilized soon afterward. After his recovery, he returned to the surgical ICU with his guitar to play music for critically ill patients. Collaborating with Dr. McMillen, this practice grew into the Medical Musician Initiative.

The benefits of music in the ICU have been documented in critical care research. A study by Hole et al (Lancet. 2015; 386(10004):1659-1671) assessed whether music improved recovery after surgical procedures. The authors performed a systematic review of various applications of music, considering choice of music, timing, and duration. They included data from routine care, headphones with no music, white noise, and undisturbed bed rest. They found that music could serve as a noninvasive intervention to help reduce anxiety and pain for patients during the postoperative period.

This type of research and stories like Mr. Schulman’s demonstrate the impact that music can have in critical care. “The medical musician has three constituencies, the patients, family/friends, the medical team,” said Mr. Schulman. “So you can see that this is a real value to a critical care unit.”

To learn more about the Medical Musician Initiative, visit