Clown Doctors: Shaman Healers of Western Medicine

This article is about “Clown Doctors” in the New York City hospitals. Clown doctors are primarily people who dress up as clowns to entertain sick children in the hospital or distract children to make them more at ease in a difficult or painful procedure in the hospital. They also entertain the parents and other people in waiting rooms to ease their mind of any anxiety while waiting on the patient to be treated and/or come out of surgery. These clown doctors identify with the non-western healers; Shamans especially.

They believe in cultural and natural remedies in helping both the family and patient during the time of illness. They incorporate culture into the performances that they do for children. They identify with temporary styles of healing unlike the western culture. Western culture practices treating patients with an allopathic approach. Whereas, non-western cultures seek a patient’s social condition of the illness.

In this article, the methods of the clowns were observed and the audiences reactions were also observed to compare this method to western cultures of medical treatment and to also see if this method is effective.

The clowns work in groups of two or three with one clown being designated as the supervisor for that day. The clowns encounter several people while passing through the halls and they entertain patients or visitors of the hospital by exchanging different gags. After doctors talk to the patients about their symptoms or a procedure that is about to take place, doctors tell the patients that they have a specialist that will see them. At this time, doctors leave the room and the clowns enter to entertain the patient and the parent. They perform magic tricks, blow bubbles, and sometimes draw things with great humor to ease the patients.

This method of treatment is not said to cure anything. As a matter of fact, they do not try to cure anything at all. The goal is to try to create a more child-friendly environment for the children in the hospital. The body and symptoms of patients are not directly dealt with this non-western method. However, this method is said to ease patient anxiety and result in more positive clinical outcomes.

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About Shavon Alexander

My name is Shavon Alexander. I am a Human Development and Family Studies major. I will be a junior in the fall. I am looking forward to learning new things about illness and culture in this class. I plan on going to medical school so I am really excited about this course!

1 thought on “Clown Doctors: Shaman Healers of Western Medicine

  1. The difference between clown doctors and credible western doctors is that clown doctors do not heal nor do they claim to heal the sick. They are there to cheer up the hospital’s patients and they do a good job of it. They help keep people’s minds off of what is going to happen to them that day and really calm them down.
    I think that they are effective because when you calm someone down you can actually decrease their blood pressure and also their heart rate which can actually make someone’s symptoms lessen and can make someone feel better.
    This article reminds me of the movie Patch Adams. He was not a certified doctor yet but he kept sneaking into the hospitals and dressing up in goofy things like the bed pans as shoes and using gloves as hats to cheer the kids up. Everyone in the hospital thought that it was a great idea and the kids loved it.
    If my child had to be in the hospital for any type of reason I would of course want to have someone there to cheer them up. I know that they would not be able to really help them physically, but mentally it could make all the difference.

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