Hospitals worldwide are using trained medical clowns to distract, empower, and relieve stress among pediatric patients and their families. Recent research suggests these “clowns at the service of medicine” reduce pediatric patients’ perceived pain and potentially children’s needs for anesthesia during pediatric examinations.
By Lisette Hilton
Medical clowning has a growing base of evidence giving credibility to its effectiveness with both pediatric and adult patients. In addition some physicians report anecdotally that having a medical clown participate in a child’s care helps everyone involved-from patients and parents to staff. Children and families who enter the hospital full of fear, sadness, and sometimes shame, change when they see the clown, according to ‘-Jessia Lang-Franco, MD, head of the center for the treatmentof the sexually abused at Baruch Padeh Medical Center, Poriya, Israel.
“The clown welcomes the child and makes him feel important,” Dr Lang explains. “When he enters the examination room, he feels stronger and more confident. He’s not so afraid.” Medical clowning combines the art of clowning with selective medical and psychological training. These individuals are considered paramedical professionals who work alongside doctors, nurses and other healthcare providers, according to an informational video on medical clowning created by the Dream Doctors Project, an Israeli group of about I 00 medical clowns, who work at some 30 hospitals in the country.
It’s no joke
This is not like a circus act; there is no script or template, according to Shoshi Ofir, MA, University of Haifa. Ofir, a medical clown and member of the Dream Doctors Project, works at 2 hospitals in Israel: The Baruch Padeh Medical Center, Poriya, and the Rivka Ziv Medical Center, Safed.
“[We medical clowns) have had previous experience and, or, studies in theater, clowning, puppetry, or circus,” Ofir states. “However we also learn a lot about the hospital. We learn how to help the
health process. We call it clowns at the service of medicine.”
Although there are not yet standard credentials established for medical clowning, Ofir holds a bachelor’s of arts degree in medical clowning, a course of study that combined courses in both
nursing and theater. She then earned a master’s in art therapy, a degree that focused intensively on psychology.