The qualified children’s nurse, who still works at the Kepler University Hospital in Linz, completed both the part-time bachelor and master programmes in music therapy at IMC University of Applied Sciences Krems. Today she works not only in nursing but also as a music therapist in the intensive care and monitoring area of neonatology.
Broad benefits of music therapy
“Music therapy is a scientifically based therapy offer in which one can get into contact with another person through the conscious and professional use of music and communicate non-verbally in a special way,” Kriechbaum explains. The use of music therapy is very diverse and is adapted individually depending on the patient and the area. A distinction is made between active and receptive music therapy; it can take place in an individual or group setting. In Austria, music therapy is one of the legally regulated health professions and is taught at IMC Krems, the only university of applied sciences to do so.
“In the field of neonatology, I use the valuable medium of music to get in touch with parents and children in a very special, sensitive and challenging situation and to provide a framework in which positive experiences and memories can be experienced and collected,” the music therapist describes her work in neonatology and continues: “Kangarooing, i.e. skin-to-skin cuddling, and getting to know each other are supported musically and this can help parents and children relax and additionally support the development of the little ones.”
The effect of music therapy on new-borns is very diverse. For example, stress factors are reduced and vital parameters such as heart rate and oxygen saturation are improved. Measurements of brain activity (EEG) showed positive changes through music therapy during the study. Premature and sick new-borns show a stabilisation of vital parameters, clear signs of relaxation up to a reduced need for sedation and improved drinking behaviour. But parents also benefit from music therapy. Anxiety stress factors are reduced by the music and the therapeutic conversation, and the focus shifts to relaxing together. The relationship and bond between parents and children are improved and perceived more positively, while emotional blockades are reduced.
Award-winning master’s thesis
For Kriechbaum, caring for sick new-borns and premature babies through music therapy is no coincidence – after all, she can point to twelve years of professional experience as a certified paediatric nurse. Her training at IMC Krems enabled her to combine her two passions: caring for children and music as a therapeutic medium. The product of this combination is not least the award-winning master’s thesis “Analysis of physiological and electroencephalographic parameters of premature infants during kangarooing in music therapy with the inclusion of parental perspectives. A mixed-methods pilot project in neonatology”. The Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research honours top student achievements with the honorary prize (Würdigungspreis).
Anna Carina Kriechbaum’s work has clearly demonstrated the importance of music therapy in the field of neonatology for parents and children and confirmed the relevance and further promotion of its use in the hospital. In the longer term, the developmental support and care of premature babies is to be optimised. In her work, Kriechbaum was able to prove that the vital parameters of the new-borns were stabilised by music and that the parents became increasingly relaxed, so that the relationship between parents and children could be strengthened sustainably.
Kriechbaum’s master’s thesis, for which she collected quantitative data in the form of measurements of heart rate, oxygen saturation and brain activity (EEG) and analysed them descriptively, opens up numerous aspects for further research with great potential. The study will be presented at the European Music Therapy Conference in Edinburgh in June. A publication of the paper is planned.