Leaving the Big Apple Circus Clown Care Unit was difficult; I loved that job. Unfortunately, it was never going to be a full-time job, so I had to return to the world of nursing. I missed it so much, however, that I began volunteering at another hospital closer to home. I was trained as a regular hospital volunteer, but I was only to do my clowning, this time on my own. I felt confident after 3 years at the children’s hospital with the CCU and this hospital only had a small children’s ward with two wings.
This change brought new challenges along with several opportunities to try something different. I had to change from a partner mentality; I had to get more creative because I had no one to play off of except my new audience. I also had to be self-contained because I had no dressing room and the lockers were far from the area I would work in. The Child Life director kindly let me use her office and restroom to get into costume-this area was mostly abandoned on weekends so I wouldn’t be disturbing any of the nurses who worked there.
Being a regular hospital [not just a children’s hospital], I came across many people who found my presence unusual and even unnecessary. This didn’t stop me from skipping and juggling through the long hallways with music on my way to the children’s ER. Some housekeepers and nursing personnel found it refreshing! Thankfully, caregivers commonly tend to have the best interest of the patients in mind and I got a few requests to visit adult patients as well.
Most of these extracurricular performances were required in the women’s health wing of the hospital. Several times, I ended up visiting young adult females who were depressed, had a birthday, or were celebrating the end of some long, difficult treatments. As I used to do in my former children’s hospital, I adjusted my gags and tricks to better entertain an adult. Some things stayed corny, some were clever, and skills like juggling always worked. Empowering the patient and encouraging participation, however, was always at the forefront of these little performances. That is always the goal in hospital clowning.
Don’t be afraid of a request to entertain adult patients. Just make sure your bag of tricks and gags is ready for anything.
Lucy E. Nunez is an LPN and has been a theatrical performer since 2002. She created Nurse Lulu for the Big Apple Circus Clown Care Unit at Nicklaus Children's Hospital in 2014. She was a resident clown there and at Baptist Children's Hospital. For more information please visit: www.sunnybearbuds.wix.com/buds