Clown Doctors in NYC

The clown doctors described in the Clown Care Unit (CCU) in New York City are a group of professional clowns that work in pediatrics in hospitals. The article starts off with the comparison of these clowns to shamans in other cultures. An example would be Plains Ojibway Windigokan and Plains Cree Wetigokan who dress in ragged costumes, dance, and sing to heal. It then goes on to say how these clowns would be considered to be a part of complementary or non-western medicine. This is because traditional Western medical treatment involves only treating a patient’s symptoms, whereas non-Western medicine takes the individual’s reality, illness, and culture into consideration. The rest of the article walks through a typical day of a CCU clown in a New York hospital. The clowns get dressed up by wearing a stethoscope that blows bubbles, a red nose, a white lab coat, and much more. The clowns then go all over the hospital to visit children and their families in order to give them a break from illness for a couple minutes. They even try to get a laugh out of people. They do this by performing tricks and doing “slapstick” comedy. An example would be trying to do a trick, but they keep messing up, then the child will have to tell them how to do it right. It was shown that even the parents and family members saw it as a great experience.

The healers in this article are the clowns themselves, who really are certified doctors. Slapstick comedy and other forms of funny entertainment are used to help heal these children. Since they are doctors, I would guess that these clowns are upper-class citizens. They also have face-to-face interactions, but are careful not to get too close to the patient, so the child won’t get attached.

These clowns operate within the American culture in a hospital setting. Healthcare is not delivered equally to everyone in this system, so many times, only the wealthy can get this treatment. Healthcare is not cheap. Usually in the American culture, the body and symptoms are treated biophysically. The clowns, however, treat patients with laughter and keeping them hopeful. The clowns allow interaction with people other than family, and take their mind off of their illness for a while. Therefore, their body and symptoms are treated mentally and holistically.

This Post Has 1 Comment

  1. obrienry says:

    This was a pretty interesting article, I did my reflection on Shaman’s and I see a few similarities and differences amongst the two. I agree with the point you make where you say that not everyone is fortunate enough to experience this, it is only the wealthier patients. I however do not believe that these clown doctors should be considered as healers. I understand that they are doing a great service to patients and their families in times of stress and sadness. However, you also pointed out in your post that they are simply taking their minds off of the illness just for a few moments. The major difference I see between the clown doctors and the Shaman is that when the Shaman walk into patients rooms their main objective is to soothe and heal the soul and spirit, not simply take the patients mind off of their condition. The Shaman also use specific tools, sounds, and motions to do what they need to do in order to heal the patient’s soul. The only leg up I believe that the clown doctors have on the example of the Shaman is that they are actual doctors who have degrees and certifications from institutions, however it can also be argued that one does not have to have these certifications in order to spiritually heal.

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