I think I had heard of medical clowns before, but my attention was caught by this report in Science Daily (courtesy of my colleague, John Scott) about medical clowns being used to distract and calm children during allergy testing. What a great idea. Prick and scratch allergy tests are horrible things to have done – upsetting for parents and scary and painful for children – and they go on for ever if you are being tested for multiple allergens. So anything to take your mind off what is being done to you has to be a good idea.
The research was done in Israel – front runners in the use of ‘medical clowns’ – and it found that not only were both children and their parents much less anxious before and during the testing, but the children felt less pain.
Pursuing the subject of medical clowns with Google, I then found the Dream Doctors Project site which describes what the Dream Doctors do, not just in Israel but around the world. The aim of the project is to ‘integrate professional medical clowning into the medical services provided at Israeli hospitals…. and to transform Clowning Therapy into an officially recognised and firmly established paramedical profession acquired through a specialised academic training program’. To this end they have already set up a BA programme in Clowning therapy at Haifa University and are just expanding it into an MA programme.
Using clowns to distract children undergoing allergy tests is a new concept but the clowns already ‘distract’ a wide range of other patients, both adults and paediatric, in many other situations: internal care, surgery, intensive care, operating rooms, day-hospitalization clinics, diabetes clinics, HIV-AIDS clinics, external care, rehabilitation, dialysis, day care centers for autistic children, oncology, premature baby wards, center for child victims of sexual abuse and psychiatric wards.
Fab idea – and like ‘medical animals’ such a lovely way to cheer your day if, for whatever reason, you are undergoing medical treatment.
And, if you have a moment, do spool through the Dream Doctors Project’s photo and video galleries.