Hospital employees do not always have time to enjoy clown gags, but when they do, they are active participants. They know the value of humor in healthcare settings, and they also need relief from their stressful jobs.
As with any other potential “audience”, employees must be observed in order to determine which approach to use, if any. There are always several who, for whatever reason, are not interested in clowns so you must pass them by respectfully. If they do show interest, you must then determine how much time they can afford to spend on a little performance.
Employees who spend most of their day at a desk usually appreciate a good clean joke, but sometimes they make requests if they are curious about items you may carry around. For caregivers such as technicians, nurses and doctors, you can do a quick magic trick, like pulling something from a change bag. If you need something shorter, you can try a squeak removal (see my earlier post, “Squeak Removal”). In very busy areas like emergency or pediatric ICU [if clowns are allowed], they may only be able to enjoy your juggling or music as they rush by.
In any case, employees will demonstrate what they have time for; I have seen speedy nurses stop for a moment to watch a clown dancing around with a cute puppet. At our children’s hospital we even had a housekeeper who insisted on dancing with us every time she saw us in the hallway, whether there was music or not!
As with children, always try to involve the employees in your act if possible; they can pull an item out of a change bag, choose a trick or make musical requests. Everyone is fair game in the hospital, as long as they are willing participants.
One July 4th was slow because most people were out, so we rode the elevator up and down while doing a "parade" inside it with music and lights.
One of our favorite things to do on a low census day was to stand in the hospital’s main hallway; we would applaud people who were walking by or tell them which gate their flight was departing from!
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