In previous posts I have mentioned that some young patients may not be interested in being entertained by clowns, but may not reject your presence because they want to talk. They may see you as an unbiased adult whom they can share something with. They may just want to vent or be heard. They may take the opportunity to get something off their chest or express how they feel about something to do with their illness. Some people may be tiptoeing around them and may assume they don’t want to talk about things they really want to discuss.
Sometimes they will tell you their worries about the future-how their illness may cut their dreams and ambitions short. Some patients are fully aware that what weighs heavy on their minds can further stress their parents, so they hide it from them but they need to say it out loud to someone who will listen. They may want to talk about death or spiritual matters.
Although we are not qualified to cover any of these things, we must be careful not to be rude to these children and teens (after all, we are guests in their room). If they seem like they need to talk, let them. As you listen, you may be prompted to say something. Empathy is best; for example: “It sounds like that’s worrying you” or “I’m sorry that’s making you feel sad” or “Have you told your parents how you feel?”. You can also take the opportunity to ask if you can cheer them up with a trick, or let them learn how to do one.
Once you leave the room, you should bring up the concern with the patient’s nurse. If it’s not critical or dangerous, you can be vague and tell the nurse that the patient needs to be heard about some issues. If it is a dangerous situation, report exactly what the patient said.
If a visit turns out to be one of these "just listening" visits, that’s fine because that’s what the patient needs in the moment. But we must keep in mind that we are required to pass any important information on to a qualified individual who can further assist the patient.
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