Assessing HeartSong as a Neonatal Music Therapy Intervention: A Qualitative Study on Personal and Professional Caregivers' Perspectives

Nienke H. Van Dokkum*, Lauren J. Fagan, Marie Cullen, Joanne V. Loewy

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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    Abstract

    Background: The music therapy HeartSong intervention pairs newborn infant heartbeats with parents' Song of Kin. Formal evidence on professional and personal caregiver perspectives of this intervention is lacking. 

    Purpose: This survey study evaluates the HeartSong music therapy intervention from parent and staff perspectives. 

    Methods: A qualitative study assessing inclusion of HeartSong for family neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) care surveyed 10 professional caregivers comprising medical and psychosocial NICU teams anonymously reflecting their impressions of the intervention. Digital survey of parents/guardians contacted through semistructured phone interviews relayed impressions of recordings: subsequent setup, Song of Kin selection, and use of HeartSong, including thoughts/feelings about it as an intervention. 

    Results: Professional and personal caregivers valued the HeartSong intervention for bereavement support, family support, including parental, extended family/infant support, and to enhance bonding. Emergent themes: memory-making, connectedness/closeness, support of parent role, processing mental health needs of stressful NICU days, and subsequent plans for lifelong HeartSong use. Therapeutic experience was named as a crucial intervention aspect and participants recommended the HeartSong as a viable, accessible NICU intervention. 

    Implications for Practice and Research: HeartSong's use showed efficacy as a clinical NICU music therapy intervention for families of critically ill and extremely preterm infants, when provided by trained, specialized, board-certified music therapists. Future research focusing on HeartSong in other NICU populations might benefit infants with cardiac disease, parental stress, and anxiety attending to parent-infant bonding. Costs and time benefits related to investment are needed before implementation is considered.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)264-271
    Number of pages8
    JournalAdvances in Neonatal Care
    Volume23
    Issue number3
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Jun-2023

    Keywords

    • bonding
    • heartbeat recording
    • legacy
    • music therapy
    • neonatal intensive care unit
    • qualitative research

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