By the time I was hired by the Big Apple Circus Clown Care Unit, I had several years of children’s theatre experience, 12 years of general theatre experience and I had been a licensed practical nurse for 14 years. I felt like hospital clowning was a perfect fit for me; it had merged all my worlds. The theatre experience was incredibly helpful, but the nursing had both drawbacks and advantages.
As we were getting hospital hygiene training, sensitivity training and other orientation particular to hospitals, I was coasting along because I had already worked in a hospital and in several nursing homes. My focus was more on learning the art of clowning. However, I started to see that my new role in a hospital setting was challenging my nursing instincts.
During patient room visits, I had to stop myself from attending to beeping IV pumps, blood pressure machines, loosened wound dressings and the like. We would try to find a nurse if a patient needed something, but we’d stay out of it otherwise. I was now an outsider, not responsible for medical patient needs.
I can recall one situation I could not ignore, however. There was a child that was alone in a room and, having special medical needs, she had a tracheostomy. Her bed was in a position which was tilted back and she seemed to have too many pooling secretions. We could not find a nurse. While it was not my place to suction her, I did choose to take the risk of adjusting her bed so she could have an easier time breathing. I told my partner that I would take responsibility for it as a nurse, although I was not an employee of the hospital.
We must use common sense and know our role in hospital clowning. But if you are an experienced medical person and you see someone in distress, try to do the least intrusive thing to assist until appropriate help arrives.
Lucy E. Nunez has been a theatrical performer since 2002 and an improv performer since 2003. She created Nurse Lulu for the Big Apple Circus Clown Care program in 2014. She is now Baptist Children's Hospital first-ever resident clown! For more information please visit: www.sunnybearbuds.wix.com/buds