Hospital clowning is rewarding because not only do we get to put a smile on a sick youngster’s face, we also provide parents and family members with some relief. They’ve not only been worried and running around with medical personnel, they’ve also had to entertain the suffering child to keep them from getting impatient or anxious. A colorful, fun distraction is just what they are looking for. It is very rare to leave a patient’s room and not hear “Thank you!” from someone on the way out.
The hospital clown must always keep in mind that this type of entertainment is not about themselves-it’s about what the patient or family members need at the moment. Many things can prevent a little performance from happening:
- doctor rounds
- nurses' change of shift
- a procedure in the room
- their nurse or the charge nurse declines
- contact/droplet/airborne precaution signs
- the patient is asleep
- a family member declines
- the patient declines
Hospital clowns must not take anything personally. We are there for whomever needs some distraction or fun, we are not there to make them see us perform. Unfortunately, some parents, in an effort to be polite to us misunderstand the service.
If a child is busy with a toy, game, television show, movie or video game, the child doesn’t need us. They are indirectly declining a visit. If they are busy and happy, we can move on to another room. Many parents try to force the child to pay attention to us or try to take their current entertainment away from them so they can enjoy the clown visit! It is up to us to explain that it’s ok because the child is happy; they can get back to what they were doing; we then thank them and say goodbye.
Children’s hospitals usually have a wonderful Child Life department, which is in charge of finding out what each child prefers with regard to entertainment, arts and crafts, games and the like. Hospital clowns are just one more choice under that umbrella, and should be used as such. Our best guideline is: whatever is best for the child.
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 Baptist Children's Hospital first-ever resident clown! For more information please visit: www.sunnybearbuds.wix.com/buds