What if your entire job description was to spread joy? Sounds pretty wonderful, doesn’t it?
Well, for medical clowns, spreading joy and laughter is the central part of their job description!
Clowns? In a hospital? It might seem like a strange concept at first, but clowns actually have a beautiful history that has been pushed aside by our typical ideas of clowning.
This medical clowning is reframing our understanding of what’s possible with clowning, performance, and the human connection.
Founded in 2010, the Medical Clown Project provides a unique form of therapy to adults and children in hospital care. Their performances are about creating therapeutic connections with patients. Whether they are meeting patients one on one or in larger group settings, their work is meant to bring humanity back to patients and caregivers.
As the Medical Clown Project founder, Jeff Raz, put it in a 2012 interview, “Everyone is under a lot of stress and can lose their humanity in a hospital.” 1
He and his wife, Sherry Sherman, started the Medical Clown Project as they looked for places their work could overlap. He as a clowning performer, and she as a psychologist.
The importance of the work the medical clowns do is best reflected in the faces of the patients they serve. And luckily for us all, one of our favorite filmmakers, Austin Meyer, created this short piece that highlights the work the Medical Clown Project is doing.
What a remarkable job to have!
You may remember us mentioning the filmmaker Austin Meyer in our article about the remarkable artist Shari Kadar. Since we featured that video, we’ve fallen more in love with the work he puts out into the world. If you aren’t doing so already, go follow him on YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram!
He also has a Podcast where he talks to storytellers of all kinds about how they got their start and how they tell their stories! I’d highly recommend taking a listen, you can find here!
Clowning Around (For Good!)
Clowning may be one of the most misunderstood artforms of our times. Although frequently portrayed as scary or creepy, clowning is actually a wonderful art form for therapy! In fact, hospitals around the world use medical clowning. Some facilities consider it a paramedical profession, with medical clowns working along-side nurses and doctors.
A piece published by Contemporary Pediatrics pointed to a 2009 study that reported that medical clowns “lowered preoperative anxiety levels among children undergoing elective outpatient surgery and receiving general anesthesia.”
The piece also highlighted research that suggested that the clowns also helped reduce children’s anxiety and perceived pain when undergoing procedures like skin prick tests and intravenous catheter insertion! 3
Medical clowns are not yet a common part of healthcare, but there is mounting evidence that they can and do play a pivotal roll in helping individuals cope better with stress, trauma, and anxiety during their hospital stays. They have also been seen to boost the morale of the medical staff. A side effect that isn’t just great for the nurse or doctor, but for the patient and family too.
Taking Joy to the Streets
Perhaps what I love most about the concept of medical clowning is how it is taking two seemingly different disciplines, medicine and performance, and bringing them together. The impact these clowns are having on patients is profound. It’s hard not to watch them work and see the joy, laughter, and human connection as their own form of deeply human medicine.
What if we tried, daily, in our own ways to spread joy, laughter, and connection? Would the people around us be happier? Would we be happier? Perhaps we could all try clowning around (for good)!
Stay beautiful & keep laughing!
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- http://thealamedan.org/news/medical-clown-project-offers-patients-humor-and-humanity ↩
- Meyer, Austin. The Medical Clowns. YouTube, Austin Meyer, 16 Nov. 2017, www.youtube.com/watch?v=px8A2b0yKy0. Accessed 6 Mar. 2019. ↩
- Contemporary Pediatrics. “Medical Clowning.” Contemporary Pediatrics, ModernMedicine Network, 1 Dec. 2015, www.contemporarypediatrics.com/article/medical-clowning. Accessed 13 Mar. 2019. ↩