Shenandoah University students in the music therapy and physical therapy programs have teamed up to apply skills from their respective fields to the care of two pediatric patients, showcasing the benefits of cross-disciplinary approaches in health care.
Beginning in the Spring 2022 semester, students from both programs worked collaboratively to provide therapy to 14-year-old Thurston and 4-year-old Cason, who have neuromuscular conditions associated with cerebral palsy.
The MT-PT collaboration falls under Shenandoah’s Interprofessional Education (IPE) Program, which serves to help students across various health care fields understand how to work together to provide optimal care for patients.
This experience was the highlight of my physical therapy school career. I learned so much from the music therapists, and still do every time we come together. It was incredible to discuss each patient session and to hear our PT perspectives intertwined with the MT students’ ideas for interventions and how to adjust. Cason and Thurston responded so well in each session. We were able to take different approaches based on the needs of each patient, but we could holistically meet those needs with the domains of each profession – something that is difficult to do with music therapy or physical therapy alone.”
Livy Gouldin ’23, student in SU’s Doctor of Physical Therapy program
Gouldin, also a musician, was instrumental in bringing together the collaboration between students in the School of Health Professions and Shenandoah Conservatory. Inspired by their experience in their adult neurotherapeutics course in Fall 2021, during which they incorporated music into therapy sessions with their patient with “astounding” results, Gouldin wanted to further explore how music therapy could be applied to patient rehabilitation.
Gouldin consulted SU Director of Music Therapy Studies Tony Meadows, Ph.D., MT-BC, and Professor of Physical Therapy Andrea Fergus, Ph.D., about incorporating some of Shenandoah’s MT students into the lab portions of a pediatric physical therapy course.
As a result, two MT students, Jamie Shegogue ’23 and Kalysta Bryant ’23, collaborated with two different PT teams – consisting of 10 total PT students – throughout the Spring 2022 semester to develop care plans and clinical interventions for Thurston and Cason.
Inspired by the success of that work, several of the PT students involved, under the supervision of Dr. Fergus, invited Shegogue and Bryant to continue working with Thurston and Cason this fall as part of a clinical case conference, one of the culminating experiences in the Division of Physical Therapy in which students share their evidence-based clinical reasoning for the examination, intervention and outcomes of a case. PT students Emily Janaro ’23, Diego Herrera ’23, Nicole LaCour ’23 and Jillian Wise ’25 worked alongside Gouldin, Shegogue and Bryant in the clinical case conference.
This experience was incredibly meaningful to both the PT and MT students. Not only did they have to work out how best to care for two pediatric patients and meet their health care needs, but they also had to work out how to work with each other and what their perspectives in care were. This is no small undertaking because it gets to the very core of what it means to care for another person, and how our differences and similarities in perspectives enrich each other’s understanding of care.”
Tony Meadows, Ph.D., MT-BC, director of Music Therapy Studies
During the treatment sessions, MT and PT students took a transdisciplinary approach (when professionals in two fields provide treatment at the same time) with Thurston to improve his reaction time, coordination and the quality of his gait. Students worked simultaneously to incorporate music into the therapeutic approaches, modifying the “Cupid Shuffle” to include stepping backward – something Thurston struggled with while walking but not when dancing to the song – and performing a group rendition of “Believer” by Imagine Dragons. During the latter, Thurston coordinated both the leg and arm movements to play the percussion parts of the song.
When working with Thurston, we watched his face light up when playing the drum set as he realized he was moving his body in ways he never knew he could before.”
Jamie Shegogue ’23, music therapy student
When working with Cason, students used a transdisciplinary approach to improve his ability to use his left arm and leg when climbing the stairs, jumping and riding his tricycle. Additionally, they used interdisciplinary methods (when professionals in two fields coordinate care and provide treatments sequentially) to facilitate Cason’s ability to self-regulate. Fergus said that after a few minutes of targeted music therapy, Cason was able to stay on task throughout an hour-long session of very active physical therapy and a lot of “marching with the dinosaurs” to the beat the music therapy students provided.
“The role of music therapy in this setting was to find a way to make the exercises meaningful in a different way than before,” Shegogue said. “The music in this case made meaning out of the mundane and routine for Thurston and Cason, and allowed each of them to connect with their personhood and body in a way that was intrinsically motivating.”
“Each session displayed how our professions have such a symbiotic relationship,” Gouldin said. “This collaborative treatment method helped Thurston and Cason meet a majority of their goals, which is always something we are hoping for!”
To conclude the case conference, PT students presented their work and resulting data to the entire Division of Physical Therapy in October. Likewise, the MT and PT students presented and discussed their work at the Music Therapy Colloquium on Nov. 7.
From a physical therapy standpoint, the outcomes were outstanding. In just a few short weeks, Thurston improved his gross motor coordination, core strength and the quality of his gait. Similarly, Cason got onto his tippy-toes and jumped with both feet for the first time. He pedaled a bike with both feet and held on with both hands. The culminating moments were when Thurston sent us his TikTok dancing video that he made with his mother and sister, and when Cason’s mom sent a video of Cason pulling on a toy with both hands in the car to show off his new skills! These are the moments that we, as clinicians, know we are really making a difference in the lives of others.”
Andrea Fergus, Ph.D., professor of physical therapy