1. Hinton, Sharon T.

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"Parish nursing encompasses the art and science of nursing with the heart and soul of ministry by caring for the whole person as body-mind-spirit" (Koenig, 2008, p. 226). Music can be an important tool in comforting and encouraging the whole person. I enjoy listening to a wide variety of music and sometimes I "make a joyful noise" when I sing. A vocalist I am not. Fortunately, God doesn't seem to mind my off-key praises!! Deborah Patterson's new health ministry resource Balm in Gilead: Hymns of Healing and Wholeness from the International Parish Nurse Resource Center (IPNRC) inspired me to consider music as a tool for parish nursing practice. As a doctoral student, I couldn't resist doing a little research and discovered "Certified Therapeutic Musicians" who provide music therapy in hospitals like Providence Health in Alaska. According to their site, "A therapeutic musician assesses the patient's situation to contribute to emotional, mental, physical and spiritual healing, including well-being, empowerment, and relaxation. The intentionally chosen music can relieve feelings of anger, fear, and sadness and support patients and families alike in the grieving process" (2010). Janet Hickman (2006) says "music enhances serenity in a way that nothing else can" (p. 216). She encourages development of a collection of a wide variety of music that can be made available for relaxation, renewal, and spiritual care. Scripture also describes music as therapy in the story of King Saul and David in 1 Samuel 16:23 and speaks of ministering with music in 1 Chronicles 6:32.

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Music, like other aspects of parish nursing, can be customized to the needs and likes of the individuals or groups being served. The choice of music sets the tone for healing services, classes, and conversations. The Florence Nightingale School of Nursing in London recently appointed the first composer-in-residence to "help nurses to understand the power of music to speed patients' recovery," and enrich the work environment for nurses (Davis, 2010, p. 22). Music is a key intervention in working with all populations in maximizing coping, promoting hope, increasing comfort, reducing anxiety, pain, and isolation, facilitating communication with loved ones, and increasing potential for a peaceful death (Byrne & Culbertson, 2009). I encourage you to listen and discover for yourself the power of music.



The hymn "O God Our Help in Ages Past" was written 300 years ago by Isaac Watts, an English composer who wrote over 600 hymns. The words are familiar:

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O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come,


Our shelter from the stormy blast, and our eternal home.


Deborah Patterson writes "We are helped by the same God who cared for those in generations before us, and who will care for generations to come" (2010, p. 28). Music spans the ages.


Discussion Forum

What is your favorite music? How do you use music in your practice? Send your comments to:

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Resource Toolbox

Music titles for nurses and nursing practice:

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* Celebration of Life: A Dedication to Nurses by Diane Penning


* At the Alter: Quiet Praise and Worship for Flute and Harp by Carol Reid & Tim Hayes


* Go Light Your World: Songs of Praise and Worship Dedicated to Nurses Everywhere by Rebekah Seymour


* Music for Healing Mind, Body & Spirit by Steven Halpern


* Relax and De-Stress by Andrew Weil & Joshua Leeds


* Songs for the Inner Child by Shaina Noll


* Balm in Gilead: Hymns of Healing and Wholeness by Deborah Patterson




Byrne, S., & Culbertson, T. (2009, February). Sing when the Spirit says sing: Clinical applications of music in spiritual care. Paper presented at the Spiritual Care Collaborative Summit 09, Lake Buena Vista, FL. Retrieved from[Context Link]


Davis, H. (2010). Healing Instruments. Nursing Standard, 24(31), 22-23. [Context Link]


Hickman, J. (2006). Faith Community Nursing. New York, NY: Lippincott. [Context Link]


Koenig, L. (2008). Parish nursing: A mission of the heart and soul. Home Health Care Management & Practice, 20(3), 226-228. [Context Link]


Patterson, D. (2010). Balm in Gilead: Hymns of healing and wholeness. St. Louis, MO: IPNRC.


Providence Health. (2010). Therapeutic musician at Providence. Retrieved from