By Dara Madanat, RED NOSES Clowndoctors International-Jordan Branch
Many of us have heard the adage, “laughter is the best medicine”. Well, it’s true! Laughter releases endorphins (the happy, feel-good chemicals in our brain). But science also shows us that the body and mind are not two distinct entities, as previously assumed. Humour triggers healthy physical and emotional changes in the body. Laughter strengthens the immune system, boosts mood, diminishes pain and protects us from the damaging effects of stress.
Less pain and discomfort during medical Interventions
A clown interaction doesn’t only decrease negative feelings; it can also increase positive feelings. Many studies support the value of clown intervention in reducing preoperative anxiety in children and parents. In fact, children who interact with clowns for 15 minutes before minor surgery feel happier, calmer and less worried about the surgery than children who do not interact with a clown.
Research indicates that the benefits of healthcare clowning are not confined to children; their families also report positive effects. Parents visited by a clown while they wait for their children to undergo anaesthesia have significantly lower anxiety levels. Likewise, parents present when clowns visit their child’s bedside in a paediatric intensive care unit feel that the clown has a positive effect on their child and themselves.
Benefits for medical staff
Anaesthesiologists report that children who interact with clowns before or after surgery are more cooperative and have easier transitions from an awake state to an anesthetised state.
Nurses also have more positive emotions on the days a clown visits. They find it easier to communicate and work with the children after the visit. Some go on to incorporate more playfulness into their nursing care. “Everyone waits for Tuesdays, not only the children, because whenever clowns are here, everything changes,” says Nurse Su’ad from a paediatric department at a local hospital. “We automatically smile!”
Clowning beyond medical visits
The need for joy is not confined to a hospital setting. Children with disabilities, the elderly and children affected by crisis can all benefit from clown interventions. RED NOSES Jordan offers these programmes as well:
- Bedside visits to children in hospitals and medical centres
- Circus Smile to young individuals affected by crises
- Humour in Healthcare seminars for medical staff
- Visits to elderly homes (coming soon)
RED NOSES continues its visits during the COVID-19 pandemic through online and in-person visits at some hospitals. RED NOSES Jordan reached nearly 14,000 hospitalised children during COVID-19 in 2020.
Masters of improvisation
RED NOSES clowns do not arrive with a previously prepared programme or show. They respond to the situation they face in the moment with patients, observing the environment and the state of mind of children. Making fun out of the unexpected, using unrehearsed exaggerations, and funny interpretation of medical instruments or machines, clowns bring distraction, laughter and relaxation.
You can try it for yourself! Look around and try to see your own world with the eyes of a clown. Perhaps use things differently, out of context or routine, arrange something in a new way, be playful!
When encountering other people, a RED NOSES clown exhibits curiosity. Healthcare clowns are curious about stories, how patients face the day or how they handle life.
You don’t have to be a master of clowning to maintain or rediscover a piece of childhood curiosity. You can identify things you never thought of having around and skills you have in you, but have neglected until now. It is endless what a curious mind can detect and what joy it can bring.
Clowns have an innocent and open manner of connecting to people. They understand and accept worries and fears, failures and weakness. They will always try to make the best out of it. They live in the moment and see with their heart.
The psychology of clowning
Healthcare Clowning is applicable worldwide in situations when pain, fear, stress and exhaustion overwhelm individuals. The modern history of clowndoctors interventions dates back to 1986, when Michael Christensen founded the Big Apple Circus Clown Care after his brother was diagnosed with cancer. Professional clown-doctors are now in hospitals and other settings worldwide to divert attention away from pain and despair by using humouristic interventions.
About RED NOSES Jordan
The journey of RED NOSES in Jordan started as part of the RED NOSES International programme “Emergency Smile” in 2014. At that time, clown visits were conducted to camps of Syrian and Palestinian refugees (Za’atari, Azraq, Baq’aa and Emirati). In parallel, regular clowns visits started taking place at the King Hussein Cancer Centre and Doctors Without Borders Hospital in Amman. Since then, the programmes and clown team in Jordan continued to grow and expand to other hospitals and facilities. In 2017 RED NOSES- Jordan was officially registered as a branch office and became the 11th country RED NOSES operates in. Visit www.rednoses.jo to learn more!