• anxiety;
  • day surgery;
  • music;
  • nurses;
  • nursing

Aims and objectives.  This paper undertakes a critical appraisal of the methodological issues associated with studies that have investigated the extent to which music decreased the anxiety experienced by patients in short-term waiting periods such as day surgery.

Background.  Investigations and surgery undertaken on a day basis have significantly increased in number over the last decade. Music has been evaluated as an appropriate nursing intervention in relation to pain, discomfort and anxiety in a number of clinical settings but its usefulness for decreasing anxiety in short-term waiting periods such as day surgery is only beginning to be understood.

Conclusion.  A number of methodological limitations are identified by this critical review, particularly in relation to the design of research studies. Recommendations to strengthen research in this area are suggested and include (i) describing methods clearly and with detail to allow assessment of the validity and rigour of study results; (ii) using permuted block randomization; (iii) recruiting from a variety of surgical procedures and cultural groups; and (iv) standardizing the health care provided during waiting period.

Relevance to clinical practice.  Music as a simple and cost-effective intervention to reduce the anxiety experienced in limited time periods will have enormous impact on clinical practice where patients wait and undergo invasive investigations, procedures or surgery. However, the evidence of its utility in these unique environments is only beginning to emerge and this critical review provides a basis for considerations for future research.