During the course of a shift, hospital clowns will often be called upon to assist a nurse or technician with a procedure. No, they aren’t expected to draw blood or take vital signs, but their presence is sometimes requested at a moment when a patient is about to suffer some pain or be made very uncomfortable.
When a nurse explains to parents that a vein must be commandeered for an IV site or a technician must obtain a sample of blood, an older child may begin to get nervous or even start crying. A younger child may not understand what is being discussed at that time, but as soon as supplies and equipment are brought into the room for such procedures, these little ones tend to scream like banshees and attempt an escape.
Anxious nurses chased us down one evening during a shift and explained that two of them were going to try to start an IV on a very young boy and wanted us to provide a distraction. We entered a packed room-the entire family was there along with the two nurses. We started a little performance which made everyone happy...until the needle was unsheathed.
The child’s parents and siblings began to try to draw his attention away from the nurses and the nurses said things to reassure him, but he would not be fooled. We decided that our best bet at this point was bubbles. This was always a success with little ones and I had just purchased a small bubble machine. It worked...until it didn’t. The little boy played with the bubbles as his parents encouraged him to keep catching them, but as the nurses continued to prepare his arm, he began to panic. His mother helped the nurses hold him while they tried to put the needle in his vein, but he wriggled so much as he screamed, that they had to stop several times.
Eventually, the nurses gave up and decided to discuss other options with the child’s doctor. We said goodbye as the sniffing child snuggled up to his mother. The siblings wanted more bubbles, but the room was getting too soapy so we did a quick magic trick and left.
Sometimes, despite our good intentions, we don’t get the outcome we aim for but it mustn’t be considered a failure. We must always do our best, figure out how to do it better next time and try again without letting past struggles weigh heavily on our minds.
Lucy E. Nunez is an LPN and has been a theatrical performer since 2002. She created Nurse Lulu for the Big Apple Circus Clown Care Unit at Nicklaus Children's Hospital in 2014. She was a resident clown there and at Baptist Children's Hospital. For more information please visit: www.sunnybearbuds.wix.com/buds