All You Need is Music: Supporting Medical Students' Emotional Development with a Music-Based Pedagogy

Acad Med. 2024 Mar 22. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000005709. Online ahead of print.


Problem: Although the practice of medicine is often emotionally challenging, medical curricula seldom systematically address the emotional development of medical students. To fill this gap, the authors developed and evaluated an innovative pedagogical activity based on music to nurture medical students' emotional development. The authors believe that the metaphoric nature of music offers an efficient venue for exploring emotion perception, expression, and regulation.

Approach: The pedagogical activity Emotions in Medicine was carried out throughout 2020 and 2021 and consisted of 4 encounters to explore: (1) emotion perception, (2) emotion expression, (3) emotion regulation, and (4) the role of emotions in medical practice. During all encounters, the authors used music to evoke students' emotions and focused the discussions on the relevance of emotions for meaningful medical practice. Emotional intelligence before and after the workshop was tested using the Schutte Self-Report Emotional Intelligence Test (SSEIT), a validated psychometric scale.

Outcomes: The workshop facilitated emotional connection among students and created a safe space to explore the role of emotions in medical practice. The mean total pretest SSEIT score was 110 (SD = 14.2); it increased to 116.8 (SD = 16.1) in the posttest (P < .001). This increase was true across its 4 dimensions: (1) perception of emotions, (2) management of own emotions (3) management of others' emotions, and (4) use of emotions.

Next steps: Music can be an active tool to explore the role of emotions in medical practice. It fosters students' capacity to identify and reflect on emotions while exploring their role in patient care. Further (qualitative) research is needed to explore the mechanisms by which music facilitates learning emotion perception, expression, and regulation.