Tel Aviv University says that medical clowns are useful in treatment

According to the first study of its kind, medical clowns who come to entertain children in hospitals, thanks to their communication skills, allow them to overcome crises and direct them to therapeutic treatment.

Research prof. Orit Karnieli-Miller from the Medical Education Department of Tel Aviv University and Dr. Lior Rosenthal, Dr. In cooperation with Doron Sagi, Prof. Amitai Ziv, Orna Divon-Ophir, and Liat Pessah-Gelblum, Israel National Center for Medical Simulation. It was published in the leading journal Qualitative Health Research.

According to the researchers, clowns help not only children, but also parents and the health care team, and contribute to the achievement of medical goals.

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“Medical clowns are professionally trained to change the hospital environment through humor. For many years, studies have been conducted on their positive effects and various skills in specific situations,” writes the Friends of Tel Aviv University website.

Until now, no definitive research has been conducted to determine the “magical secret” of these medical clowns, to characterize the skills they use and their therapeutic benefits.

Dr. Elisha Waldman with medical clowns in the pediatric oncology department at Hadassah Medical Center in 2009. (YouTube screenshot)

“Furthermore, it was not generally understood how clowns could help children, adolescents and their parents cope with difficult situations and the difficulties associated with sometimes painful medical procedures and treatments, which sometimes led to doctors’ reluctance to follow therapeutic recommendations. teams. »

Thus, this study aims to systematically, qualitatively and in-depthly determine the skills of medical clowns by observing and analyzing their actions during difficult encounters with adolescents, parents and medical professionals. The research team analyzed dozens of videotaped simulations of medical clowns in various situations and conducted in-depth interviews with experienced medical clowns trained and employed by Dream Doctors, a non-profit organization that uses therapeutic medical clowns as part of the paramedic system. Israeli hospitals.

The researchers’ results showed that medical clowns have about 40 different skills to achieve four therapeutic goals: to connect and communicate immediately with patients’ needs and desires; managing emotions and challenges; increase motivation to adhere to the therapeutic program and strengthen the sense of control; thinking and motivation of patients.

Thus, their work allows a better connection with the patient’s emotions and a personal relationship with him. The patient will also be better able to communicate their concerns to the medical staff, distracting them from the pain, and be more motivated to comply with the prescribed treatment. Thus, according to the study, clowns go far beyond simply “giving patients a good mood.”

Clowns wearing protective gear entertain a COVID-19 patient in the intensive care unit for coronavirus patients at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, November 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

“In fact, from the moment they enter the room, clowns choose to connect with the patient, empower them and give them power and status in the medical system,” said Prof. Karnieli. “They do this by not wanting to initially engage with the patient’s voice and even implement treatment recommendations; an emotional bond that subsequently leads the patient to change his position and cooperate with the medical staff. The medical system is hierarchical and difficult for patients who come into contact with it. Therefore, one of the skills of medical clowns is to place themselves at the bottom of medical settings. They give patients such power, giving them power and control, including the choice to enter the clown’s room or not, as well as the ability to dictate the nature of their role vis-à-vis the clown. . This allows to increase the feeling of control and gives courage to the patient in a difficult situation. »

“Characterizing the skills and goals of medical clowns improves understanding of their role and actions and may help other healthcare professionals recognize their work methods and the benefits of incorporating them into treatment,” adds the professor. Carnieli-Miller. “Furthermore, other health professionals can implement some of the identified skills themselves when faced with these challenges. »

“This research is important because it allows clowns to design their own training program and develop the application of different skills to achieve different therapeutic goals that are appropriate for different patients, while also helping healthcare professionals to collaborate with medical clowns. When and how to collaborate with them if they know, they will be able to help patients cope with difficulties and at the same time be more tolerant of the “envy” caused by the clowns of hospitable care.This will give them time and space to connect with patients, help them become more active participants in their therapeutic programs, and will encourage”, said Prof. Karniali-Miller.

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