McMaster students complete music care research projects

by Deb Bartlett

Staff of Room 217 recently enjoyed an inspiring day with 14 McMaster University students, when they presented their projects as part of a research team in the scope of music and healthcare. The conduit for this presentation is Chelsea Mackinnon, a sessional instructor at McMaster who is also Room 217’s education and research manager. 

The third- and fourth-year students worked on six projects, all of which focussed on analyzing data for Room 217 programs. They were thesis projects for three of the 14 students. Chelsea says the students gained experience using a number of diverse research strategies, tools and methodologies to complete all coursework in an evidence-informed way.

The themes of the research practicum were music and health sciences, translating theory to practice, quantitative and qualitative data analysis, knowledge translation, and not-for-profit work in the healthcare space. The learning objectives were to apply inquiry skills to a novel research question in order to generate and test hypotheses, to analyze qualitative and quantitative data, to translate research findings to the Room 217 staff (harness knowledge translation and teaching skills), to understand the purpose and value of a not-for-profit organization’s research strategy within the health care space, and to gain practical experience working on a research team for a non-for-profit organization.

Among the projects researched and presented were: a study at three hospice palliative care sites in Hamilton in which either Room 217’s music care albums or poetry were used as an approach to care in people at end of life; assessing caregiver confidence in Music Care Training in both Level 1 and Level 3; a report on how Music Care Training Level 3 impacted the caregiving of graduates; a program evaluation of the Music Care Partners program; and how to make the Partners program more sustainable.

All told, the student did an astounding 2,700 hours - the equivalent of 67.5 weeks - of research for Room 217. In addition to the research findings (which will be reported on by the students in upcoming blog posts), the students relayed a number of key learnings from their participation in this class.

One of the students working on the palliative care project said they had to learn “how to go about communicating with people who are at end of life … treating them as people rather than projects.”  Another shared that he wanted to continue work that incorporated his love of statistics and music. A student in the Level 3 report noted that in order for music care to be effective, “it takes a village to implement integration (of music into care) not one person.” Another student who made this a thesis project said she learned knowledge translation matters, and that she had to be a researcher and a human. After working with people in long-term care, she came to realize that she under to “understand people as the people that they were” (via family information) rather than the people they currently are. Yet another group came to realize that real world challenges aren’t the same as academic difficulties, and they had to work around a number of challenges, including time crunches for employees.

In the coming weeks, the students will be sharing blog posts here, which account for a portion of their grades in this course.

Deb Bartlett is a journalist by profession, with a particular interest in the health and education beats. As Room 217’s Resource Development Lead, her experience as a writer lends valuable communication and networking expertise within the wide range of Room 217 customers and media relations.