DALLAS, Texas (Ivanhoe Newswire) - A hospital can be a scary place for kids. Between the needle sticks, surgeries, and strangers, it's no wonder many children don't look forward to their visits. But sometimes, all it takes is a clown to turn a child around.
Every day, they put on face paint, red noses, and oversized shoes. But these clowns are not headed to the circus.
"Doctor Slappy" and "Doctor Monday" visit sick kids. The "Funnyatrics" clowns are hospital staff members and permanent fixtures. Five days a week, they make their rounds with one goal: make kids laugh.
"Once they start laughing, they feel better. There's no way you can't feel a little better if you're laughing," Tiffany Riley, aka, "Dr. Slappy," told Ivanhoe.
Four-year-old cancer patient Stephen has had a rough morning, but some bubbles change everything.
"One of our challenges and our goals is to empower the child," Dick Monday, aka, "Dr. Monday" told Ivanhoe.
And it may do even more. Studies show laughter can lower blood pressure, reduce stress, improve alertness, and boost the immune system.
"You can see it. When the clowns enter the room and leave the room. The child is different," Dr. David Podeszwa, at the Children's Medical Center, in Dallas, Texas, told Ivanhoe.
Doctor David Podeszwa said the clowns are often paged when a child won't eat or needs a shot.
"It's a way of distracting them. It's a way of putting them at ease," explained Dr. Podeszwa.
Eight-year-old Amber needed some cheering up.
"Because I have seizures," Amber told Ivanhoe.
A few minutes with the clowns does the trick.
"It's amazing. It helps pass the time," Amber's Mother, Brandy Bailey, told Ivanhoe.
"Doctor Slappy" and "Doctor Monday" are both veterans of Ringling Brothers Circus. Once a month, the clowns meet for an "emotional hygiene" session, where they talk about the difficult emotions they encounter while working with sick kids.
BACKGROUND:When one thinks of hospitals, one of the last things that a person would think of is a clown. However, the use of therapeutic clowns for kids and their families in hospitals has been increasing during the last decade. The job of these therapeutic clowns includes: entertaining children and their families in outpatient clinic waiting rooms, distracting families in emergency rooms, comforting parents of children in intensive care units, and distracting small children during frightening medical procedures. (SOURCE: http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/)
JUST CLOWING AROUND, BUT NOT REALLY:In order to decrease the level of anxiety the children and their families are feeling, therapeutic clowns, in groups of two to three, are dressed in full clown and doctor costume and have bags filled with magic tricks, puppets, musical instruments, bubble solution, and any other props children find entertaining. Usually, therapeutic clowns will have a set schedule each day as to where they will be going in the pediatric department and they tend to stay away from rooms in which a doctor examination is taking place. However, there are times when clowns will accompany the children during small procedures to distract the children from what's going on. Once the clowns arrive in a hospital room, therapeutic clowns will do anything from making clown noises out of respirator tubing, blowing bubbles for babies, and joking around with teenagers. (SOURCE:http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/)
THE IDEA IS SPREADING:In the last decade, there has been a rapid growth in the presence of clowns in hospitals, particularly in pediatric settings. Many thousands of children are exposed to clowns during their hospitalization. The Theodora Foundation sponsors clowns in 82 hospitals on three continents: Europe, Africa and Asia. In the United States, 90 clown doctors from the Big Apple Circus Clown Care Units (CCU) provide 250,000 bedside visits yearly, and in 2005, the Children's Medical Center in Dallas launched the Funnyatrics Clown Program. (SOURCE:http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/)
BENEFITS: Clinical researchers from a variety of disciplines hypothesized that humorous distraction provided by clowns would increase patient cooperation, ameliorate parental anxiety and decrease the need for sedation. Results showed that there were significant decreases in observed child distress, in child self-reported distress, and parent-rated child distress with the clowns present. As a result, physicians found procedures significantly easier to perform with clowns present. In addition, positive changes in the behavior and mood of health care providers were observed when the clowns were around. (SOURCE:http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/)
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