"The arrival of a good clown exercises a more beneficial influence upon the health of a town than of twenty asses laden with drugs."
Thomas Sydenham, medieval philosopher
At Hadassah, in addition to providing our young patients with the highest level of medical treatment and personal care, we do everything possible to help the child, offering entertainment, recreational, and educational activities. One of the special programs we have here at Hadassah is our Medical Clown Program - because laughter is important medicine.
While "clown care" has existed for decades as a way to help ill children, the discipline has been formalized and is now considered an invaluable asset in pediatrics. Israel has become a global leader in the field. Thanks to the generosity of concerned donors, Hadassah has been able to pioneer this singular tool of health and healing. Hadassah's clowns have shown again and again the healing power of humor.
Hadassah's Clown Program began in September 2002, and it was the first of its kind in the country. Clowns are present in our pediatric in-patient and intensive care units, outpatient clinics, acute-care waiting rooms, physical therapy, bone marrow transplant, burns and pediatric AIDS units, reminding young patients that they are more than just their illness. The program began in our Ein Kerem campus, and quickly spread to our Mount Scopus campus.
Working in tandem with the hospital's medical staff, Hadassah's clowns communicate HoH with the hospital's acutely and chronically ill children, their parents and the medical staff. Reintroducing fun and laughter as natural parts of everyday life, they help ease the stress of serious illness.
Pediatrics Chairman Prof. David Branski spoke for all his staff saying, "I can no longer imagine our professional lives without the clowns." None of us can.
Hadassah's renowned team of Medical Clowns use their skills to treat children with doses of fun to help them deal with the range of emotions they may experience while in the hospital; fear, anxiety, loneliness and boredom. They provide the "wonder drug" of laughter to reduce pain by relaxing patients and they help children cope with difficult situations.
The clowns on Hadassah's team are all trained professionals. Their impact is felt on the entire hospital, with everyone talking about the clowns and their special brand of medicine. The holder of the Division's cafeteria franchise won't accept payment from the clowns for their coffee; they are, he says, performing "holy work."
Along with their professional qualifications, Chris, Jerome, Dudi, Talia, Bobo, Rinat and all the other clowns share an intense empathy with children. "I look into a child's eyes and see the person, not the illness," says Jerome. "I don't even think about the illness until I've left the hospital."
The Medical Effect
According to Prof. Dan Engelhard, head of Pediatrics at Hadassah-Ein Kerem, "The hospital clowns have made an extraordinary impact on the Pediatrics Division. They help acutely ill children lose their fear of hospitalization and treatment, and they forge a deep connection with the chronically sick youngsters, even those who are withdrawn and remote. Once the clowns reach them, it opens the way for the medical staff to do so, as well. For all our youngsters, the clowns turn the hospital experience into something pleasurable. They create a joyous atmosphere, in which everyone is smiling."
Hadassah has set the professional criteria for medical clowning in Israel. The clowns' presence is viewed by the medical crew as a natural part of hospital work. The nurses and doctors use the assistance of the clowns in treatment of various medical procedures from simple blood tests to the escorting of children to operating rooms, from physiotherapy to HIV treatment and emergency room actions. This professional collaboration has become a cornerstone that has led to positive results for patients and their families - both of whom benefit from this service during their hospital stay.
Laughter, like exercise, can reduce stress, improve tolerance to pain, and alter bodily functions such as blood pressure, heart rate, muscle activity, and stomach acidity. The mere presence of the clown is a reminder of joy and hope in rooms of fear and sickness. A clown in the hospital is itself a joke, the very spirit of humor. Laughter triggers the release of endorphins and serotonin which are the feel good hormones that create feelings of euphoria, love and happiness. Laughter also works through a psychological phenomenon known as 'facial feedback' whereby pulling a certain expression can actually cause you to experience the corresponding emotion. Thereby the simple act of smiling from laughing can raise your mood.
In addition, Clowns give sick children a sense of control. Unlike medical staff who come and go based on the procedural timetable, Hadassah's clowns stay with a child only if invited, allowing hospitalized youngsters to decide what they want. The clowns can also motivate children. Doctors and therapists at Hadassah note that a visit from a clown is sometimes just what a child needs during an uncomfortable or tedious procedure or during intensive physical and occupational therapy. A child can get excited about reaching for a bubble blown by a clown, even if it involves the same movement he or she was resisting moments earlier.
Request for Support
Throughout the year, the medical clown team provides much needed comfort and laughter to Hadassah's pediatric patients and their parents. There are six clowns working at Mt. Scopus and Ein Kerem. The clowns move from department to department and from room to room every day in order to ensure that each sick child will have an opportunity to laugh and be calmed. The complete cost for a clown for an hour is forty five dollars. Your support is needed to help us cover the annual program cost of $216,000.