My own ‘inner clown,’ became active during my undergraduate service project at JFK University. Joining the Gesundheit! House calls Team is a way for the health care professional (I’m not) or anyone with an open, caring heart, to spread joy and laughter where there’s a need. I knew the need was great in convalescent hospitals or nursing homes as they are more commonly called. A nursing home was an obvious choice to spread some joy and share some laughter. And I was SO ready to Gesundheit! Really. Even with Patch’s books Gesundheit! (1993) and Housecalls (1998) for guidance and inspiration, I still felt very apprehensive about my service decision. The staff and patients might think I was goofy. But that was the whole idea! So I tried to fuggetaboudit, and had the time of my life dressed like a tie-dye clown. It was a great way to make a difference.

The medical staff and dedicated volunteers at the El Camino Hospital in Mountain View, California, have discovered that humor used in a therapeutic manner, is a great way to make a difference. This Silicon Valley hospital obviously understands the need for humorous healing. A visit to this hospital’s website (www.elcaminohospital.org) will introduce you to their unique program in Healing Humor:

Dr. Siskel, a pathologist at El Camino Hospital, is also an amateur standup comedian. He became convinced nearly a decade ago that humor enhances healing. After researching the literature he began to give lectures about pathology, humor and health, promoting the idea that, ‘When people are hurting, a little humor can make a huge difference’ (2009, p.1).

At El Camino Hospital, volunteer jester Melissa Parker cheers up patients with her stock of jokes and cart full of stuffed animals, bumper stickers, cards, bubbles, games, windup toys and funny glasses. She roams the hospital floors, connecting with patients and distracting them, for a few moments, from health problems and the hospital routine (2009, p.1).

For more information on El Camino Hospital’s humor program, call (650) 988-7767, and then call your Doctor. Tell your personal physician you want a humor therapy program placed in your hospital, because laughter has proven therapeutic value.

And while you are at it, tell any doctor who will listen, that Laura Jensen Walker (2003), a former newspaper columnist, author, and breast cancer survivor, found that “Joking with doctors and nurses is one of the few fun by-products of surgery”(p.146). (Patients ought to have SOME fun, I say!)

Joking with the pioneering nurses who publish, and contribute to the newly resurrected, Journal of Nursing Jocularity, would be great fun. These humor-promoting nurses just want to have fun! So I’ve included two hilarious cartoons from their earlier magazine in Appendixes A and B (not human appendixes, folks!), to give you a sense of their publication.

Reading about the importance given to the value of humor and healing at El Camino Hospital was encouraging. El Camino Hospital is a fine example of applying fun in a medical setting, and in our current health care industry, a sense of fun and humor is sorely needed (pun intended!). Some hospitals depend on caring clowns to administer zany doses of fun and humor to their patients. Writer and Editor, Katharine Whittemore, informs us about the Clown Ministry program at the St. Luke’s Hospital in Cedar Rapid’s, Iowa, and tells us about “the Big Apple’s Circus’s Clown Care Unit, the largest hospital clown program in the country, which visits hospitals in such cities as New York, Boston, and Washington, D.C.” (as cited in New Age, The Journal For Holistic Living, 1998, p.132)

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