When an outbreak of a contagious, infectious disease hits any hospital, protocols are followed [and even new ones may be created] in order to contain the microbe, treat affected patients, avoid cross-contamination and keep hospital personnel healthy so they can continue to help patients. This can mean stepping up the routine hygiene measures taken daily for safety and prevention, limiting visitors to a parent and permitting only medically necessary personnel into the unit.
During my time with the Big Apple Circus Clown Care Unit, the children’s hospital where we worked had an outbreak of an unusual intestinal bug. There was enough cross-contamination on a particular intensive care unit before they were aware of it that the entire unit had to be shut down for all non-essential personnel. We arrived at the wing unaware of this until we saw the signs. Naturally, we we turned away after a nurse who saw us approaching explained the situation.
This event made our organization re-emphasize its cross-contamination avoidance policies and procedures. Although the outbreak was not our doing, we were getting comfortable in our roles and there can be a tendency to become lax in some crucial areas, so we all needed to be more mindful of opportunities for contamination during our shifts.
Hospital clowns may only be elective personnel, but ANYONE going from room to room in a hospital must follow hand-washing and basic OSHA hygiene protocols for everyone’s safety including our own. This includes using personal protective equipment where necessary and sanitizing any of the props, tricks or costume pieces we use [and may drop] in any given room.
At this time, there is a world-wide outbreak of a new strain of coronavirus and we will have to follow any new rules our hospitals and other facilities may put in place. We may even need to miss shifts when required so to do. Proper hand washing and other preventive measures really do work and they are necessary to keep patients, visitors, employees and clowns healthy.
Lucy E. Nunez 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