Hospital Orientation

Raise your hands now: How many of you have never seen the clowns before?

Raise them again if this is your first time seeing the clowns.

Don’t I look like I know something about fun? Many thanks to photographer George A. Taylor, MD.

Interesting. About the same!

Each member of Big Apple Circus Clown Care a is a professional performer – not a volunteer – selected for skill and sensitivity during a grueling audition process. Our training prepares us to work in the hospital environment. We learn proper hygiene and hospital procedures. We’re screened, we’re vaccinated, and we undergo an annual safety review. Our artistic quality and hygiene procedures are evaluated on a regular basis by our own “Joint Commission” on clowning.

Eight of the most talented and dedicated of these clowns can be found in the Clown Care program at Children’s Hospital Boston (CHB). There, they work with the hospitalized children, their parents and the hospital staff to ease the stress of serious illness by reintroducing laughter and fun as natural parts of life.

Collectively, and without boring you with details, some of their outstanding credits include:

  • Ringling Brothers Clown College graduates and teachers
  • Nationally and Internationally recognized
  • Performances from the streets to the center ring. From comedy clubs to the Lincoln Center. Broadway to Cirque Du Soleil.

Ironically (or maybe not), three of them were hospitalized at CHB as small children.

Patch Adams drew attention to the positive effect of humor and healing. Unlike us, however, he is a doctor who plays a clown. We are professional clowns who play doctors (one of my colleagues calls himself “Dr. Gongolfin.”)

Making clown rounds

Since 1995, the Clown Care Unit has been making clown rounds at Children’s. That’s 325 inpatient beds a week, 3 intensive care units, 11 floors of clinics and everything in between. We get our rundowns from the charge nurse or childlife specialist on all the floors we enter. They let us know any special details that will affect how we do our jobs. Do we need to take special precautions with any of the patients? Is anyone vision impaired? Unable to hear?

Here are some of our DOs and DON’Ts:

DO have fun. Join in! A problem shared is a problem divided, and a joy shared is a joy multiplied.

DON’T ask us to be associated with a painful procedure. Wait till after.

DON’T assume that someone is too young or two old for clowns. We have age-appropriate material for newborns to adults.

Professionalism and sensitivity, combined with the commitment to our art, are the keys that unlock the many doors of the hospital and bring us into the hearts of the children, families and staff. In the short time that we’ve been at Children’s Hospital Boston, I have discovered how important  and what an honor “IT” is to be able to “Walk someone to the door.”

There are many doors of the hospital. Registration, Admitting, Pre-Op, the elevator, the exam rooms, the cafeteria, the garden, and the front door. Even the door from this life to the next.

All these doors taught me a trick that is sure to make anyone smile:  Miss the door and walk right into the wall!

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