For oncology patients in particular, in addition to the music therapy described above, Montefiore has a fine artist in residence who devotes several days a week on the center’s various campuses for creating art with inpatients and outpatients while they are receiving their chemotherapy. The hospital has also just received a grant from the Livestrong Foundation to provide a weekly day of music therapy specifically to oncology patients; half the day will be spent with adult inpatients, and half the day will be spent with children at the children’s hospital.


The Healing Arts Program at Montefiore is conducting a 1-year pilot relaxation program for nurses on 12 different units, including oncology and palliative care. The program utilizes a music therapist and a holistic nurse to deliver individual 30-minute relaxation sessions to nurses on the units. The music therapist uses different musical relaxation techniques, while the holistic nurse utilizes modalities such as guided imagery, breathing, aromatherapy, hand massage, Reiki, and other energy therapies.

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The hospital’s human resources division sponsors the program. They chose to provide individual half-hour relaxation sessions so only one nurse is off the busy unit at a time. Another staff person can cover, and each nurse gets personal time just to sit back and relax. Fallek reports that the responses have been extremely favorable. “Before and after each relaxation session there’s a very short questionnaire asking how stressed and how relaxed each participant is. How stressed are they before, what are their symptoms, and also afterwards? Every 4 months there’s a breakfast on the unit, where the relaxation people just chat with the nurses and the nurse managers. How are you doing? How is it working? What could be done better? At the end of the year-long pilot program there will be in depth interviews to see how successful it was.”

Nurses’ comments have been positive. “I really feel different from when I started. The session made me feel calm and peaceful. It put me in a very relaxed mood, which takes me away from everything that is going on around me. It was very therapeutic for me and even removed my shoulder aches!”

“The session was very relaxing and helped me connect with my inner thoughts. I felt able to open up and release feelings that have been causing my inability to sleep at night. Concentrating on my breathing helped me focus more. I feel very calm now, with more energy for my work ahead.”

Indeed, there are quite a few less stressed nurses who are hoping the Montefiore program is a smashing success, and it will continue.

Bette Weinstein Kaplan is a medical writer based in Tenafly, New Jersey.