Humour In Hospitals
- An Overview

Few people would argue with the benefits of laughter as an antidote to stress and a natural healer. Yet hospitals appear slow to pursue humour with the enthusiasm it deserves.

Cartoon: The many benefits of Laughter: stimulates blood flow, enhances memory, energises, relieves pain, increases breathing, helps fight infection, improves concentration, relaxes musclesThis is not surprising when we consider the number of health care professionals who have yet to address the relationship between emotions and healing. If this were fully accepted we would see it reflected in the way patients are treated in hospital and the use of basic complementary healing therapies such as massage, music, nature, pets and aromatherapy.

Humour is just one way of taking the stress out of hospitals and there may be easier places to start, such as those outlined in the book Doctor, I feel funny.

These include those healing therapies mentioned plus making information available, building a strong volunteer service, noise reduction, privacy, more flexible routines, using colours and basic comfort aids such as sheepskins.

When it comes to humour in Australian hospitals, Cartoon: Clown says to Doctor, 'Doctor, I feel funny', and Doctor replies, 'Well you look ridiculous to me!'it is the 'Clown Doctors' who appear to be having the most success. They are part of The Humour Foundation, which was established by Dr Peter Spitzer in 1996 and well worth sharing their experience. (see contacts)

To our knowledge there is little evidence of clown alternatives such as laughter lounges, giggle groups and folly trolleys (carts) in hospitals in Australia and New Zealand. Our cyberspace friends tell us that this is also the case where they are in the USA, Canada and England.

Dr Shayne Yates