When starting a clown program in a hospital, the Child Life [or equivalent] Department and the clowns will establish what areas of the hospital will be open to clown visits. Each area is different not only because of the specialty of care involved, but because of the structure of the unit.
If given permission, the ER (now known as the Emergency Department) can be a fun place to visit. It should be approached like any other unit, checking in with the charge nurse to see which patients may be visited. Other units may have restrictions such as contact, droplet or airborne precautions, sleeping patients or patients that may not want a visit. In the ER, you may have these restrictions, but you may also have patients that are emotionally or mentally unstable, as well as patients with unknown issues that could later be diagnosed as contagious.
In many emergency departments the rooms may have large windows; they may or may not have curtains or blinds that you may or may not be able to play with. (This is always tricky with regard to privacy, so it’s best to play at windows with rooms that are already open or have open curtains.) If it’s not intrusive, playing at the windows can be great for patients who welcome a visit but may be contagious and playing with a partner is usually great fun for everyone.
You and your partner can walk by the windows in different ways-you can pretend to be in a film reel, or pretend you’re really short, you can do everything backwards, or you can dance… and you would do all this in silence (it’s best not to be loud in the hallway).
Fun moments: (The following was all done in silence.)
*One of my partners who wore two long, twisted pony tails brought a large rubber chicken to the ER.
*If we played at a window, she would stand there alone and wave.
*I would be unseen, but I’d hold up the chicken as if it is having a discussion with her.
*She and the chicken would slowly get into a heated argument.
*The chicken would attack her and her ponytails would flap about.
*I would then close the blinds, pause, then open them again.
*The next thing the people in the room would see was my partner sticking her face and hands onto the window in horror and then sliding down as I closed the blinds again.
*Then we’d move on to another room.
(This never failed to get a huge laugh.)
Remember you can also go into rooms if they’ve been cleared, not just play the windows. Also, don’t underestimate the good times you can have in the waiting room (see Magazine Story).
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