Appropriately her name is “Joy.” Joy Allen is an Angel from Heaven that brings music and healing to those who are ill and in need.
By Doug Dickerson
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Harvey Pinckney sits on the edge of his bed, the sound of, ‘Just A Closer Walk with Thee’ resonates through the room, his foot taps to the beat on the floor, Pinckney sings along.
Joy Allen is not there to just sing or entertain; she is an integral part of patient care.
As the music plays, and the hymn is sung, a therapy session is under way.
Allen routinely calls on patients each day at Trident Hospital. Her patient care rounds may take her from oncology seeing cancer patients, or to the neo-natal unit to see premature babies, but Allen is there to minister healing wherever she goes.
As a valuable part of the team of caregivers for patients, she does not wear a stethoscope around her neck, nor write prescriptions. Her medicine of choice can be gospel music, R & B, 60’s, 70’s, jazz or any of the standard songs. She has hundreds to choose from.
Allen’s instrument of healing is administered through her voice as she sings and her hands as she plays the guitar. Allen, a board certified music therapist, is the music therapy coordinator at Trident Hospital. The program began a little over two years ago at Trident and is the only program of its kind at any area hospital.
Each day, Allen and her two interns, Cara Batema and Amber Crawford, see patients who may be at end-of-life stages with their illnesses or tiny infants in the neo-natal unit. Since the inception of the program, the response from patients and staff has been overwhelmingly positive.
“We have more referrals than we can meet,” says Allen.
The individual attention given to a patient during a music therapy session is an integral part of a patients care. Michelle Horton, a registered nurse and Oncology Director says that the therapy sessions make a huge difference in their cases with oncology patients.
“I can see a huge difference with the patients with their therapy. My staff loves to walk the hall and hear them singing in the rooms,” she said. Music therapy sessions may involve creating, improvising, listening to, and/or performing music, depending on the patients needs.
Allen and her staff take an individualized approach to patient care and will incorporate music in the session based upon the patient’s strength’s, preferences, cultural background, and spiritual beliefs. A music therapy session may last anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour depending on the patient.
Allen says that since the demand for music therapy services is so high within the hospital, patients are seen on a priority basis according to need.
The medicinal value of the care that is provided is immeasurable.
Elizabeth Friendly, an oncology nurse says that as a nurse, she can only jab a patient so many times, but when the music therapists come it’s a tremendous input.
“They look forward to them coming and coming back, music is a universal healer. When everything else has been taken away from them with regards to their health, no matter how sick they may be, music is the one thing that they can enjoy,” she said.
Allen says the spiritual element of music therapy is a strong component to the patient care she provides. “There are times in the sessions we will write songs, especially in a end-of-life situation and that is given as a gift to the family or as a celebration of the persons life,” she said.
Tom Glisson, Director of Pastoral Care at Trident Hospital says that the program has been very warmly received throughout the hospital. “The program h as taken off like gangbusters. It’s very beneficial; the patients not only enjoy it but they also therapeutically benefit from it. Music is a powerful medium and invokes a lot of memories and is relational between the patient, the therapist and the music. It’s not the same as playing a CD or radio.
A music therapist is trained from a spiritual approach,” he said. Music therapy allows a person to focus on the parts of themselves that are healthy, creative, and expressive, no matter how ill one may be.
Through the patient/therapist relationship that develops with and through the music, a healthy space is created allowing for needed physical, emotional, and/or spiritual change to take place. This in turn, allows for the patient to live his or her life rather than focusing completely on the illness. Allen says that in addition to sessions with patients, she may also have sessions with the extended family to help them cope with the illness of their loved one.
“The fighting spirit is so important to their care, we are the ones they can come to for support and cry with,” said Allen.
After ‘Just a Closer Walk with Thee’, Crawford sits next to Pinckney as Batema joins them in singing the old classic, ‘I’ll Fly Away’ and close with ‘How Great Thou Art’.
“I really enjoy it, it lifts me up. When she (Allen) brings it, I feel it. Some can sing it but not feel it, she makes me feel good,” he said.