by Author Rhythmix

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"In An Octopus's Garden" An evaluation report of the Rhythmix, Wishing Well Music in Healthcare programme by Well Within Reach

5 years in to the Rhythmix, Wishing Well programme, we had developed a thriving partnership with our children’s hospital here in Brighton; as Musicians we felt part of the team on the  children’s critical care ward, creating moments to help people step outside of their usual dynamic of patient, family member and nurse to be together in a different way, through music. And while the medical team are quite rightly fixing what is wrong with people, we can ask what is right; find their strengths and shine a light on what they can do.

Most of the Wishing Well team who trained with us back in 2013 are still with us so time now we thought, to dig deeper into our practice. We wanted to better understand the relationships that we built with children and families in hospital, to understand some of the science of what was happening between us all in our music making. To learn more about creativity and its role in supporting babies, children, young people and their families who are on the very edge of trauma. We felt sure that we had just scratched the surface of learning -  you know that sense of knowing how much you don’t know?

East Mids based organisation Well Within Reach (some of you will know them under their previous name of CLADAC) proved to be our perfect evaluation partner. We didn’t want the evaluation process to be overly linear: we agreed that each stage would inform the next as we followed the trail of our own enquiry. We weren’t setting out to answer a particular question, but to learn more about what we saw every day in our work with the hope of being able to better articulate and advocate for music as a vital and viable part of healthcare.

What quickly emerged through observations of our work,  was that capturing “input” was just as important as capturing “outcome”. Working in children’s critical care has its challenges. We arrive on the ward essentially unannounced; people haven’t opted to come to our session, we make the offer of taking part in music making from their doorway. Families are mostly in private rooms so our job, after some essential briefing from the nursing team, is to approach each room, assess what is happening inside and figure out how music can help in that precise moment. Do mum and baby need the ordinariness of a lullaby to give them space to bond? Does this young person, who has been here for weeks have something to say through music that no-one else has got time to hear?

So what are the skills and “micro-behaviours” that enable musicians to begin, develope and end relationships in this context? What followed was a fascinating process of observations, training and discussions , resulting in this report.

“In An Octopus’s Garden” contains references to theories and frameworks that sparked our interest and started to fill in those gaps in our understanding;  the emerging field of Neurocardiology, wonderful Jaak Panksepp’s research on human and animal emotional systems (if nothing else, please do watch his TEDx talk; the link is in the report. Its very moving), Carl Roger’s work on the Core Conditions for development. There’s enough here to keep us going for the next decade I think and we’d love to hear what grabs your attention. Some of the information and recommendations are quite specific to working in acute healthcare but lots of it is transferable.

As Jo Stockdale says in this report ”As such research continues to progress, there are ongoing opportunities for the Music and Healthcare sector to respond to new discoveries and thus continually develop practice. We’re not yet done with learning”

The evaluation process helped bring together a second document - a “Competency and Values” framework specific relating to working in healthcare. We’ll be using this both as a reflective tool with our established team, and as a framework to support Mentees in their training. Please do get in touch with us if you’d like to use a version of it in your work.