Injured Clown - Nurse Lulu's Improv Series

Although it may not be realistic for regular hospital employees to call in sick for a simple cold or a slight fever, units with immunocompromised patients will either require such a call-in or float the mildly ill employee to another floor.  Hospital clowns, however, may have the luxury of missing a shift when contagious.

Musculoskeletal injuries may be treated similarly.  If a hospital employee wants to work but clocks in with a broken arm or sprained ankle, it may land the affected employee on light duty or exile them to a desk.  This is not a punishment; it is for the safety of all concerned, especially the patients.  If, for example, a nurse working with newborn babies walks into work with a broken limb, he or she will not be able to bathe or carry a baby safely and may have to be rescheduled to the postpartum unit.

Depending on hospital policies with regard to clowns, an injured clown can still be able to do a shift with help from a partner. To remain safe, the clowns must be creative but careful.  Using crutches is not an example of carrying out duties in a safe or even effective manner.  Crutches are cumbersome, getting in the way of regular routines.  They are also a potential hazard, especially in a room with lots of visitors or in the emergency department.  A friend of mine with recently faced with such a dilemma.

Stories from a Friend:

Several months ago a former clown colleague sprained her ankle during the opening scene of a show with our improv troupe.  Being a veteran of the theatre, her “show must go on” spirit allowed her to complete her performance albeit in agony.  Once she received medical care and an assistive brace, she went straight back to her clowning duties.  She told me that her clown partner asked the hospital’s permission to utilize a wheelchair during their shifts.  They created new routines had more fun clowning around on wheels than they ever had before the injury! (She did go to physical therapy though.)

If you are hospital clowning alone like I currently am, you may have to stay home if there is illness or injury.  There is no one to help you out and there are no guarantees that you won’t create havoc all over the hospital.  Don’t let a simple injury stop you from serving your patients, but be wise. You can be faithful to your duties, but you must be able to carry them out safely, for your own sake and the sake of those around you.


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 Unit in 2014. She is now Baptist Children's Hospital first-ever resident clown! For more information please visit:

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