“Working 9 to 5”… in a Hospital!

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a Music Therapist working in a hospital? We asked our Music Therapist, James, to tell us what it’s like working 9-5 (or actually 1.30-5 in his case!).


My name is James Lea, I’m 29 years old and I trained at Anglia Ruskin University. I’m currently working with Chiltern Music Therapy to deliver Psychodynamic and Neurologic Music Therapy across a range of services.

About the hospital work

I'm currently working at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, National Spinal Injuries Unit on St. Francis Ward, on behalf of Rosie’s Rainbow Fund each week.

Those you are supporting

I work with young people aged anywhere between 1 to 18 years old with spinal cord injuries and sometimes breathing difficulties, using Music Therapy to support them. The patients I normally see are visiting on a short term basis for recovery and development.

A typical day

  • I arrive at 1.30pm for a handover with the other staff in the hospital. I try to get to know the patients I’ll be seeing and if they are available I’ll try and meet with them before we have a session later on in the afternoon.
  • Between 2pm and 5pm I see three patients each for an hours Music Therapy session.
  • At 5pm before I head home I have a handover with the staff if needed and I write up all my notes.

A music therapy session

I work with the patients to base their sessions around activities needed to achieve their individual goals. Some of these activities are:

  • Songwriting - Together we write songs about their journey so far or sometimes about something that’s on their mind
  • Therapeutic Singing - We do this to reduce pain and also because it can be fun!
  • Music listening - this can help to promote positive well-being and it gives me a chance to get to know the patient and start a conversation with them
  • Instrumental improvisation - this can really help to improve their movement
  • Music games - this can be used to support well-being, movement and also it can be fun!
  • iPad Music apps - It’s important to think about the transition out of hospital and we can use apps that the patients can also use at home to continue their recovery. It can also help with their well-being too.

The best thing about working in a hospital

  • The fun and constantly positive feeling around the ward. Nursing staff are always smiling which influences the patients on the ward too.
  • The children/young adults are so inspirational and leave me speechless sometimes with how well they are engaging with their recovery.

The challenges of working in a hospital

  • Sometimes pain can be a factor for the patients, so tailoring the sessions to make sure the sessions are enjoyable but also encouraging positive development.  
  • Meeting new patients weekly and needing to create a therapeutic relationship within one session.

Your proudest moment

  • Helping one patient to share and express their personal and emotional journey through song. The patient shared the song with their family and friends and their relationship improved as it wasn't something that was discussed before. The nursing staff let me know the following week how impactful that was.  

The most requested song

  • Usually any song from Tik-Tok
  • Most recently Sweet Caroline (because of the England football team!).

Describe working in a hospital in 3 words

  1. Inspiring
  2. Positivity
  3. Fun

Support our Work

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