Music in the Operating Theatre – Are there any Risks?

Music in the Operating Theatre – Are there any Risks?

Music is often played in operating theatres at the request of surgeons.  Have you ever wondered if the playing of music  negatively distracts  the members of the theatre team? I came across the enclosed  research article  “Music and communication in the operating theatre”,(2015) which peaked my interest!

In part it identified the following:

Research is needed as:
Noise levels in the operating theatre already exceed World Health Organisation recommendations
• There is a divide in healthcare professional opinions on the playing of music in operating theatres, with few studies conducted and no policies or guidance provided
Music is currently played in 53-72% of surgical operations performed worldwide

The authors of this study identified their key findings which I’m sure all theatre Nurses will find of interest!

Repeated requests (e.g. for a surgical instrument) were 5 times more likely to occur in cases playing music than in those not playing music
• Having to repeat a request due to music playing can add 4-68 seconds each to the total operation time
• Music playing can lead to increased tensions due to frustration at ineffective communication.
• Patient safety could potentially be affected due to miscommunication.

The researchers suggest that the findings can be used to influence policy and practice e.g.

Decisions around whether music is played and around the choice of music and its volume should be made by operating teams, not individual staff, taking into account the potential negative effects it can have on communication
• Frank discussions between clinicians, managers, patients and governing bodies should be encouraged for recommendations and guidance to be developed.

Does your workplace allow music to be played in the Operating Theatres? If so who decides what is played and when? Are they policies in place to guide the use of Music in the Operating Theatre. We would love to receive your feedback.

The Nurses for Nurses Network has a great range of  Nursing CPD activities.  The sessions are focused on Nurses who need to know about  Nursing in the ‘real world’ where Nurses are often time poor and resource limited.


Music in OT


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