Ok, so it’s not a national holiday, but it’s a day when we celebrate one of the most noble professions (and as both a clown nurse and a real nurse, I appreciate it!). Nurses are key to making hospital clowning go smoothly, as they are the ones who not only know if their patients are well enough to enjoy a visit, they also know which patients will not likely feel comfortable with a clown in the room. In any case, I will be addressing holidays in the hospital.
Even though there are television sets, clocks and visitors around, sometimes a patient can lose track of the days when they are admitted into a hospital. This is especially true for those with long-term stays. Day in and day out they are feeling the same way, seeing the same room and having the same tests done. They go through the same routines while they await doctors, nurses, test results and discharge approvals. If the clown does the same thing in every visit, they can become part of the drudgery, no matter how well-meaning they are. We must therefore make holidays special.
Hospital clowns can find a way to change their costume, while still making it practical and safe. They can bring in special music, sparkly accessories or themed gags. One July 4th, I wore a small string of red, white and blue lights on my hat, while my male clown partner wore a tutu over his trousers. Around Christmas there was a teenage girl who felt forgotten because the many Santa Clauses that had already visited only provided gifts for the younger children. Our hospital always had a surplus of gifts around that time of year, so my partner and I went up to the playroom to find out if there was something age-appropriate for our patient.
Thankfully someone had donated hair accessories, nail polish and sparkly notebooks. We returned to our dressing room with our haul and found a new light-up nose. My partner wrapped the gifts in paper towels while I donned a green and red-striped sweatsuit which I stuffed with other clothing. I cut up a big paper towel and formed it into a beard. When we returned to her room, my partner announced that Santa had returned and was very sorry to have forgotten her gifts. I was a ridiculous Santa, but it cracked her up and made her day. The nurses knew her well and were very happy that she was finally included in the festivities.
The changes made for holidays can be improvised, silly or simple; the idea is to make the entire atmosphere of the hospital seem more festive. After all, even the employees are stuck there on a special day.
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