Clown doctors hold the key to young patients' happiness

Clown doctors hold the key to young patients' happiness

For so long, treating patients in hospitals was focused on their physical health, from operations to medications and physical exams. But what was never really considered is the patients’ state of mind.

Today, this has been changing. More and more hospitals are providing psychological support to patients, especially kids. In fact, research has shown that this support can significantly improve the chances of recovery.

 A clown doctor on the job. Credit:  Clowndoctors.org.nz

A clown doctor on the job. Credit: Clowndoctors.org.nz

This new kind of support is not offered by the average doctor but by well-trained volunteers known as "clown doctors."

The role of clown doctors is to make children laugh and have fun, in order to make them feel better. The medicine here is sheer laughter, contagious smiles and pure joy.

Most popular in Australia, diversional therapy is defined as a patient-centered practice that recognizes that leisure and recreational experiences are important in the healing process of patients.

Clown doctors adopt names that match their diversional role, like Dr. Button, Dr. Hat, Dr. Colors, all nicknames to make children smile. They also wear customized over-sized costumes and the red nose is always there to top it off.

Clown doctors mostly volunteer in oncology departments in hospitals or in cancer centers, visiting the children twice per week and sometimes more.

 A clown doctor playing with a young patient. Credit: Manchestereveningnews.co.uk

A clown doctor playing with a young patient. Credit: Manchestereveningnews.co.uk

They make children forget about their sickness, even for a few minutes, and spend a good time through jokes, magic tricks, storytelling and other fun activities.

In a hospital, children will feel uncomfortable, anxious and out of place. But clown doctors come to lighten up their traumatic experience. With light-hearted humor and laughter, they reduce pain, stress and anxiety levels, boost the immune system and help children gain a positive outlook on life.

Soon enough, children get used to the amusing visitors and start looking forward to getting some time off with them.

In the movie "Patch Adams," released in 1998, late American actor and comedian Robin Williams portrayed Hunter Patch Adams who was determined, despite the struggles and rejections, to become a medical doctor, using humor and laughter to give meaning to his patients’ lives.

Related: How laughter therapy can help you become a happier person

When treating young patients, it is also important to take their parental environment into consideration, as it is an essential part of their life.

The parents' worlds often get turned upside down, and seeing a smile on their child’s face would surely make them, and ultimately the child, feel better.

Cover credit: Changetomorrow.com.au

Physical attractiveness: Between myth and reality

Physical attractiveness: Between myth and reality

TED Youth: Go ahead, make up new words

TED Youth: Go ahead, make up new words