Hospital clowning is fun and is a great addition to the activities that the Child Life department offers. Clowns, however, must always make patient well-being their priority and not just focus on the fun. Because hospital clowns are involved with direct patient contact, they should not only receive the same safety and hygiene training as all hospital personnel, they should also observe the same precautions that protect themselves as well as the patients. They should get vaccines, wear masks or avoid precaution rooms altogether, avoid cross-contamination and stay home when sick.
Patients may be hospitalized for an accident, in which case they are not being treated for an illness but for an injury. They may have a heart condition, a congenital defect or they may have complications from a chronic illness like diabetes. It goes without saying [but I’ll say it anyway!] that showing up for a shift with the flu is not only uncomfortable for the clown, it can also cause these types of patients problems they did not get admitted for. The common cold, on the other hand, may seem like no big deal since it normally doesn’t include a fever or an infection, but it can also be extremely dangerous for some patients.
There are patients who are unfortunately “frequent flyers” in hospitals. They are regularly admitted for chronic conditions in which either the treatments suppress their immune system or the immune system gets compromised as part of the disease. These patients may be on chemotherapy, radiation therapy or they may have blood dyscrasias involving a low white blood cell count. It is critical that clowns avoid these delicate patients even with a simple head cold.
Skip your hospital clowning shift if you have a fever, infection, the flu or a cold. Your supervisor will understand that it is for the safety and protection of all hospital personnel, but especially the patients.
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: www.sunnybearbuds.wix.com/buds