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Music for the OR: Upgrade Your Mixtapes to Playlists

Op-Med is a collection of original articles contributed by Doximity members.

What do the first auto-appendectomy and Coachella have in common? That’s right, music. But before you jump into cauterizing and asking for suction to the beat of our tailored musical playlists, here's some background for you.

We asked Doximity members what music was on their OR playlists. Some responded with specific songs and one member provided a fully thought-out comment about using music to improve the OR workflow. This got many of us at Doximity’s Editorial team thinking about how that concept aligns well with our mission to connect health care professionals and make their lives more productive. While some of you may think that listening to music during work might be distracting or unprofessional, it likely depends on the person, type of music, and task. The utility of music in the workplace is an ongoing area of research. For example, a series of studies from the early 1970s found benefits associated with listening to music at work. The mood enhancing effects of music can also improve both productivity and creative problem-solving.

Below are the playlists we’ve created for you. Give them a listen and a like while you work. Read on for more info on how these playlists will make you a more efficient clinician.

Some songs may contain explicit language.

CHILLinstruments: Get in the zone

When the OR needs something mellow with a little funk

HOTinstruments: Straight from the autoclave

Just like your work clogs, quiet but it puts a little pep in your step


For the serious surgeon with an inner pop star


Retro-style tunes that laparoscopically look into your soul


Deep cuts (pun intended) and pop rock hits spanning decades

HIP HOPeration: A surgeon's guide to hip hop

A physician’s ode to the old school, gold school, and new school

Physicians, specifically, have a long history of appreciating the benefits of music, and studying its effects across a range of randomized controlled trials, systematic reviews, and meta-analyses. Surgeons in particular play music in the OR around 62–72% of the time. Listening to music is also very popular with OR staff, as around 80% report that it benefits communication among team members, reduces anxiety levels, and improves efficiency. Researchers have demonstrated that surgeon-selected music was associated with improved autonomic responses and performance during stressful tasks. Additionally, music can increase the speed and accuracy of task performance. Beyond the benefits to the surgeon, music can also improve the work efficiency of other OR personnel. While personal preference and musical selection may influence the benefit, data suggests using music as a potential OR workflow tool may increase focus and efficiency while minimizing stress. 

What are surgical teams listening to, though?

In 2017, Spotify teamed up with Figure1, a medical app, to dive deeper into the global world of OR music. They solicited responses to a music preference questionnaire from more than 700 surgeons across 50 countries. Responses indicated about 90% of them listen to music while operating. Rock (49%) and pop (48%) were the most popular genres. Results also indicated those surgeons agreed with research data finding music can improve focus in the OR by relieving tension and relaxing the whole team. One surgeon described the effect of music as inducing an almost “trance-like focus.”

But what has happened since 2017? Has musical taste evolved for surgeons the same way music evolves? Or are the classics still on top? Which music genre creates the best cohesion across your surgical team? Listen and let us know. 

Is your favorite genre missing? What tunes are you listening to, and where? Writing patient notes? The reading room? Tell us in the comments and you might see a playlist just for you in the future.

Illustration by April Brust. Album covers by April Brust and Jennifer Bogartz

All opinions published on Op-Med are the author’s and do not reflect the official position of Doximity or its editors. Op-Med is a safe space for free expression and diverse perspectives. For more information, or to submit your own opinion, please see our submission guidelines or email

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