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Music’s Just What the Doctor Ordered

25 November 2013 at 10:13 am
Staff Reporter
Mother of five children, Dr Catherine Crock divides her time between family, being a physician at the Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne, and her volunteer roles at HUSH Music Foundation and the Australian Institute for Patient and Family Centred Care (AIFPCC). Dr Crock is this week’s Changemaker.

Staff Reporter | 25 November 2013 at 10:13 am


Music’s Just What the Doctor Ordered
25 November 2013 at 10:13 am

Mother of five children, Dr Catherine Crock divides her time between family, being a physician at the Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne, and her volunteer roles at HUSH Music Foundation and the Australian Institute for Patient and Family Centred Care (AIFPCC). Dr Crock is this week’s Changemaker.

As the Co-ordinator of the bone marrow and lumbar puncture procedures for children with cancer, Dr Crock led the establishment of the first family advisory committee at the Royal Children’s Hospital in 1998.

She first entered the Not for Profit sector in 2004, when she founded HUSH Music Foundation after recognising  the role of using music to minimise stress and anxiety of patients, family and staff in hospitals.

The Foundation, which creates  music that provides a calm and healing environment, donates specially composed CDs to hospitals and has raised more than $1 million through the sale of the music, which goes towards health programs in paediatric centres across Australia.

In 2009 she founded the Australian Institute for Patient and Family Centred Care, which she is Executive Director of. The Centre has developed significant resources to help healthcare providers develop effective and innovative partnerships with patients and families, to improve the quality and safety of healthcare.

Both the work she does with HUSH and AIFPCC is voluntary.

In 2009, Catherine was awarded a Churchill fellowship to further her studies in patient centred care and its impact on patient safety.

What are you currently working on in your organisation?

Dr Crock with Susan Pope and her daughter and patient Charlotte.

I have two  organisations: the Hush Music Foundation and the Australian Institute for Patient and Family Centred Care, which one day may come together – which would make a lot of sense.

Hush began in 2003 out of my work as a doctor at the Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne.

Parents at the hospital suggested to me that music would help them in the stressful hospital environment. Hush set out to record special music for this purpose by working with professional musicians and composers.

We have recorded 12 CDs so far which are donated to hospitals around Australia and internationally. Money raised by sales of the CDs is donated to hospitals for them to use for pain management or music therapy.

Hush is currently very busy with our most ambitious project ever – a CD of music composed by 12 of Australia’s foremost composers and played by the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra.

The composers each spend time in the hospital environment, meeting with patients, families and staff to understand what type of music will provide the best relief for stress and anxiety associated with hospital experiences.

The composers then work to a quite specific musical brief and compose music for our project. This latest CD Hush Volume 13: The Magic Island, is quite amazing. We are launching the CD at a concert in Hobart on December 7. Details and how to book are on

We are also running a Pozible crowdfunding campaign to support the CD production costs at:

At the same time we are thinking ahead to 2014 when our next project will be three acapella singing groups: Cocos Lunch, The Idea of North and The Song Company working together to produce something incredible. The composing of this CD is just starting.

Hush is a continually evolving foundation now with a picture book being created. Our vision is to use imaginative children’s literature alongside Hush’s calming music to support healing and wellbeing.

This exciting project may be one of the world's first in terms of collaborative picture book production—connecting high calibre Australian children’s authors and illustrators with high calibre Australian musicians such as Paul Grabowsky and Tony Gould.

The creators have been selected to create specifically for a broad age group and are made up of a group of Australia’s most celebrated authors and illustrators: Kevin Burgemeestre, Terry Denton, Judith Rossell, Danny Katz, Mitch Vane, Craig Smith, Doug Macleod, Julie Vivas, Margaret Wild, Ann James, Karen Tayleur, Jackie French, Alison Lester, Jacqui Grantford, Tohby Riddle, Shaun Tan, Brenton McKenna, Glenda Millard, Steven King, Anna Walker, Jane Godwin, Nick Bland and Bruce Whatley.

The Australian Institute for Patient and Family Centred Care (AIPFCC) is also busy.  

AIPFCC has a vision to transform  healthcare by improving partnerships, culture and the  environment. We are very interested in the role the arts can have in encouraging the culture change to make healthcare more patient centred.

Our current project is the performances of a play called “Hear Me” written by Alan Hopgood in collaboration with AIPFCC.

The play is currently touring hospitals and being presented to staff and patients. The play explores the complex relationships and communication issues that go on in healthcare and can lead to things going wrong.

Following the play there is a facilitated discussion amongst the audience. These discussions have been far ranging at every hospital and give staff and patients the opportunity to talk about issues that are bothering them, particularly about communication problems.

This method of using the creative arts as a platform to educate and inform about healthcare issues is proving very effective.

So far over 3,000 staff and patients have seen the play and given feedback about how they think healthcare can be improved.

What was your first job in the Not for Profit sector?

All my roles in NFPs have been voluntary. I started the Hush Music Foundation in 2003 after speaking with patients and families I work with as a doctor at the Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne.

Families described to me how challenging and at times threatening they found the environment in hospitals. Together with families input we started to use specially designed music to reduce stress and anxiety.

These Hush CDs then became popular with the general public.

The money raised by sales of the CDs helps to support the production of CDs to donate to hospitals for use in clinical areas.  

As the project has grown so has the amazing team of volunteers who support different aspects of the project depending on their interests and expertise.

The project attracts some of Australia’s finest musicians who are delighted to see their music being used and appreciated in a therapeutic setting.

What is the most rewarding part of your work?

Seeing the work we do making a difference, not only to the lives of patients and families but also to staff in hospitals and also to the volunteers on the teams.

Being involved in both Hush and AIPFCC has been wonderful to all the volunteers who learn a lot, develop their skills and get great satisfaction from all we achieve.

What has been the most challenging part of your work?

Sometimes it has been a challenge having colleagues in the healthcare professions who don’t realise the worth of bringing the arts into health.

It can be difficult to convince some people of the benefits of a patient and family-centred care approach.

It may be seen as  rather soft or add on extra rather than core business. At times it may seem like a threat to the professional’s status in the healthcare system.

The most effective way I have found to overcome these barriers has been to work with patients and families to tell their story in a way that is respectful of the professionals role while highlighting things from the patient perspective that can help drive improvements.

I also find that it helps to gather other like minded people together to help spread these messages and to support me in tough times.


What do you like best about working in your current organisations?

The most fun is having such an amazing team of passionate people around me.

I love working with creative people who are so committed to helping making the healthcare experience better for everyone.

Brainstorming our next project – sometimes looking outside our comfort zone and then pulling off something wonderful, breaking up into small teams to drive the bits of the project people are most committed to…This keeps everyone enjoying the ride and getting lots out of it.

I’m always being asked …

How do I find the time to fit everything in? I think when you are passionate about what you are doing and you gather great people around you to help, then things just fall into place and get done somehow.

My family are a huge support and always get involved as well so this helps to link everything together for me.

Through your work, what is your ultimate dream?

My ultimate dream is to have a healthcare system that values compassion, good communication and caring for people as central to everything we do.

Caring for the staff, the patients, families and community in an environment that is healing for everyone involved.

What does a typical day for you involve?

Much as I love to sleep in, it's not often possible. An early start taking one of our children to rowing. Twice a week I swim laps with a group of friends.

We try to keep this time sacred so we keep fit but also get to solve many problems together over breakfast.

If I have work at the Royal Children’s hospital that is also an early start as I work in the operating theatre as a doctor performing bone marrow tests and lumbar punctures for children with cancer.

This work keeps me grounded in what really matters. It also inspires me every day by keeping me in touch with the families and staff who make it all worth the effort.

After work I usually have meetings to do with Hush and AIPFCC. It might be meetings with my team or with musicians, book publishers, actors or potential funders.

Next is a trip to Camberwell market, maybe with one of my five children, to sort out the shopping for dinner and for the week. Each of the children takes it in turn doing the cooking at night.

My preferred evenings are quiet ones at home with the family after the usual busy day. My husband Rod is amazing and holds the whole family together when everyone is so busy, active and involved in many things. He has a great perspective on life and without his wise advice neither Hush or AIPFCC would have achieved nearly so much.

Staff Reporter  |  Journalist  |  @ProBonoNews


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