Oncology and palliative healthcare providers demonstrated a high level of interest in the use of music care in a survey study, despite the therapeutic approach not being implemented in the settings in which they practice. This study was published in Supportive Care in Cancer.

Previous studies have shown that music, when applied either by a certified music therapist (music therapy) or by nurses or other healthcare practitioners as part of an integrated healthcare approach (music care), can provide benefit for cancer patients.

A survey study with a cross-sectional quantitative design was conducted among oncology healthcare or palliative care professionals who were included in the database of an online continuing education center in Ontario, Canada, and invited by email to participate. Demographic information on study participants were collected in addition to responses to questions related to their attitudes, awareness, knowledge, and current use of music as a therapeutic approach, as well as their perceptions regarding barriers to its integration into the healthcare setting in which they practiced.

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Of the 204 oncology healthcare providers participating in the survey study, more than 90% were female, nearly 80% were registered nurses, and more than 50% had been practicing for more than 20 years. Most of the respondents practiced at a cancer center (48.4%); other practice settings included a general hospital (35.8%), hospice/palliative care facility (17.4%), and a community agency (12.6%).

Although 79% of respondents reported being aware of the use of music in clinical care, only 55.5% selected “very knowledgeable” or “somewhat knowledgeable” responses when queried about their ability to apply, or refer patients for, music therapy. Of note, only approximately one-quarter of respondents reported having music therapy programs at their employment settings. Some of the most common reasons selected for not having such programs were budget constraints, lack of resources or tools, and lack of expert personnel to perform such care.

Nevertheless, the overall interest among survey participants regarding learning about applying music care was high, with a mean response of 4.05 (on a 5-point scale with selections 1 and 5 representing “Strongly Disagree” and “Strongly Agree”, respectively). Some of the factors selected most frequently as motivators to further pursue this therapeutic approach included encouragement from management and patient interest.

Interestingly, 80% to 90% of respondents selected music care as being “moderately” or “very” effective in reducing stress, helping patients to relax, and improving emotional well-being and overall quality of life. However, only 60% to 70% believed it can help manage pain, maintain cognitive function, and improve physical function, with less than 60% associating it with improved mobilization, despite the findings from studies showing benefits of music care in these areas.

A possible study limitation, identified by the authors, included possible confusion among study participants regarding the differences between music therapy and music care, although descriptions and definitions of both were provided.

Survey responses showed a discrepancy between the perceived value of music-oriented interventions and levels of knowledge and confidence in how to deliver them among oncology and palliative care clinicians. The researchers conclude that front-line clinicians, as well as managers and policy decision makers, need further education regarding its use and benefits. In addition, more structured music care training with outcome evaluation are needed to ensure music care can be incorporated into clinical practice in an accessible and cost-effective manner.


Esplen MJ, Foster B, Pearson S, et al. A survey of oncology healthcare professionals’ knowledge and attitudes toward the use of music as a therapeutic tool in healthcare [published online May 3, 2019]. Support Care Cancer. doi: 10.1007/s00520-019-04812-2