Elevating safe patient care through a passion for song

Amy Allen

Amy Allen, who works in the simulation center at Mayo Clinic in Florida, inspires patient care technicians to strive for the safest patient care by taking a page from her musical education background.

Every patient care technician at Mayo Clinic in Florida needs to know the "5 P's of purposeful rounding." (Pain, potty, position, personal possessions and presentation, if you're not in the know yourself.)

You might notice them humming a tune as they make their rounds.

Amy Allen helps train colleagues on the 5 P's, and she figured they'd be easier to remember if put to music. Specifically, the catchy tune of "Conjunction Junction," a song made famous in a "Schoolhouse Rock" segment in the 1970s.

Allen, an operations specialist at the J. Wayne and Delores Barr Weaver Simulation Center at Mayo Clinic in Florida, has helped revolutionize the training process for her department, using her musical education background and backing up the approach with data. There are plans to expand the process in the future.

Bringing passion for the humanities to medical simulation

Allen joined Mayo Clinic in 2018 as a standardized patient actor for medical simulations. It was a good match for her theater and music background. The position calls for acting out clinical situations for medical students or residents to assess.

She soon moved from standardized patient to simulation technician.

"Simulation technicians are like the stage crew," Allen says. "It's our job to manage every technical piece of the scenario, whether you're using a live camera view, running vitals on the monitor, moulage or medical makeup, or props to simulate the situation. Whatever is needed to demonstrate what the learning piece is of the medical simulation, we pull those together and make it so that everyone can be seen and heard."

Allen was drawn to Mayo Clinic's Humanities in Medicine work and the way it incorporates the arts into augmenting patient care.

Working with Liz Mattson, education administration coordinator, she began working on new ways to train patient care technicians by incorporating music. Mattson, a board-certified music therapist at Mayo Clinic in Florida, coordinates with various departments to help bring their humanities-based education initiatives to life.

"We initially had the idea of incorporating Amy into our volunteer musicians, some of whom are also staff members," Mattson says. "Then we thought about utilizing music in education initiatives."

That led to the creation of the "Safety Sonata," a song that was constructed to engage and enhance the learning during nursing orientation."

"Do they need to use the restroom? Are they in pain? Do we need to reposition the patient in their bed? Are we maintaining the patient's personal integrity? Is the room clean and neat?" Allen asks. "These are all hallmarks of great patient care."

And all these questions are addressed in the "Safety Sonata."

Backing it up with data

Allen and Mattson collected data on training retention with and without the "Safety Sonata." They wrote a study about the effects of music and how it can help people retain important information — even in a clinical environment.

The data reflected an increase in retention with musical intervention. Quiz scores increased from 75 percent to more than 90 percent.

The duo presented their study, "Safety Sonata: A Gamified Musical Approach to Pre-Briefing Patient Safety Simulations," in a 90-minute workshop and 15-minute Hot Topic format at the International Meeting of Simulation in Healthcare earlier this year.

The study is currently in the process of being formally completed and submitted for publication.

Realtime impact, on a personal level

The importance of her work became clear to Allen recently when a friend came to Mayo Clinic in Florida for medical care.

"I visited a close friend of mine at the hospital I've known for 20 years through my theater and music connections," Allen says. "They were at Mayo undergoing several procedures prior to beginning a treatment regimen."

As she was visiting with her friend, the patient care technician came to the room to check-in and recognized Allen.

She told the friend, "I don't want to interrupt, but I just want your friend to know that she is the reason I know my purposeful rounding process."

The patient care technician mentioned the 5 P's song and told Allen that she sings it to herself all the time and talks about it with other members of the team.

"It really made me realize how important education and training is here at Mayo, and it made me proud to be working alongside such an amazing team of educators," Allen says.

"What we do every day is making a world of difference in the lives of so many patients, including someone very special to me," she says. "If this isn't a full circle moment that makes us realize the importance of what we do here at Mayo, nothing is."