Using Music in the Perioperative Setting

Nurse to share project results and tips at AORN conference

In April, Carol Pehotsky, DNP, RN, ACNS-BC, CPAN, NEA-BC, will give a podium presentation entitled, “Now Hear This: Music in the Perioperative Setting” at the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN) Global Surgical Conference & Expo in Boston. “We know that music can relax us. We experience it in our own lives,” says Pehotsky, Director of Perioperative Education and Professional Development at Cleveland Clinic. “Similarly, listening to the music can have a positive effect on patients’ pain, anxiety, vital signs and overall experience.”

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Bringing a passion for music to the bedside

While earning her DNP in 2015, Pehotsky studied the use of music in the perioperative setting for her evidence-based practice project. It was a natural fit for the nurse, who began her healthcare career as a music therapist working on a burn unit at a Cleveland hospital. “I fell in love with healthcare, but struggled as a music therapist. I could do a lot of things for patients, but I couldn’t make the dressing changes go any faster,” says Pehotsky. “I couldn’t roll up my sleeves and help with the procedure. I felt too helpless, so I took a leap and went to nursing school.”

When she was a frontline nurse on a post anesthesia care unit (PACU), Pehotsky talked with managers about utilizing music with patients. “Music is a passion of mine, and I always wished I could combine both music and nursing,” she says. She finally got the chance during her DNP music listening project, which aimed to validate literature findings that music has a positive effect on patients undergoing surgery.

Twenty-five patients on a PACU at Cleveland Clinic’s main campus were enrolled in the intervention group and listened to music post-operatively. They used headphones and iPod® touch devices that were loaded with five relaxing Spotify® stations, from which they selected one they preferred: jazz, acoustic guitar, classical relaxation, piano and a calming new age track. Pehotsky collected data on each patient’s vital signs, pain ratings and the amount of pain medication used. Using medical records, she then compared that information to a control group of 25 patients with similar demographics who had surgery the previous month.

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Project validates use of music for surgical patients

Pehotsky’s project confirmed the literature findings: Patients in the intervention group used significantly less pain medication than those in the control group. They also had a lower heart rate and much lower pain rating at discharge.

Pehotsky will share details about her project and findings at the AORN Conference at 8 a.m. on April 1. In addition, she will describe techniques for implementing a music listening program in the perioperative setting, as well as strategies for using music for personal benefits.

“Music is universal,” says Pehotsky. “It can be used to calm people when they are anxious or energize them when they are exercising. It can easily be implemented into patient care.”