Clown Doctors in NYC

The article “Clown Doctors: Shaman Healers of Western Medicine” was about the Clown Care Unit (CCU) who works in the pediatric wards in NYC hospitals. Their job is to go to patients rooms and entertain them to relieve pain and anxiety that they are feeling. These clowns are thought to represent shamans/traditional healers of the non-western societies.

CCU’s do not claim to actually cure anything besides possibly helping with anxiety illnesses. Their main job is to help with social healing and finding a different way to help them without actually operating. The clowns will go in the waiting room and entertain the parents and patients, and they will also distract the kids during painful procedures. Going off topic for a minute, I volunteered in Children’s Hospital last summer and they would do the exact same thing with having clowns. From what I saw they would make balloon animals for the kids and go visit patients rooms just to put a smile on their faces in this scary time they are going through. These clowns are not doctors whatsoever, but they try to help the patients as much as a doctor would. When you compare them to shamans you can see the similarities clearly. Both of them have weird costumes, props and behaviors and both entertain to help cure. Some even believe that the shamans and clowns pay more attention to the patients illness than the doctors actually do.

Seeing as the clowns operate in a hospital, the healthcare is dealt with a lot differently than what the clowns do. The doctors are there to actually cure the disease (cancer, broken bones, etc.) but the clowns deal with the other symptoms (mood, depression, family members). The clowns are there for a comic relief and are just important as the doctors are for the patient’s health and wellness.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Morgan Barnett says:

    The CCU clown doctors are trained in a completely different field than the biomedical doctors in the New York Hospitals, as reviewed in “Clown Doctors.” They represent shamans from other cultures. Clowns by reputation are not to be taken seriously; they play games and make jokes. The fact that they are representative of shamans reveals the biocentric model of the United States healthcare system. These healers do not seem credible in curing disease like doctors do, but are effective on a scale that most doctors never reach. The CCU clown doctors are effective in helping families and patients deal with the emotional stress of disease and illness by teaching them social mechanisms that they can use to cope. The clown doctors influence the attitude of the parents and families, which carries psychological value although not physiological value. When families rated the service, most gave the clowns’ practices a 5/5, and only two reviews gave it a 4/5. This demonstrates its effectiveness within the hospital. From an adult’s perspective, the clown doctors compare to shamans of other cultures. Shamans can be very mysterious in ways that clowns are not, and they might have practices that are difficult to understand. Children, however, have a different view of the clowns altogether. Many are scared of them, just as they might be scared of a shaman. The clowns work through and around their fear. To a child, the CCU clowns provide a valuable source of light-heartedness in emotionally demanding situations.

  2. Colleen Drabek says:

    It seems that the clown and doctors provide some interesting parallels when it comes to relieving symptoms. Their jobs are both the same: to make the patients feel better—undoubtedly they go about this in different ways. Healthcare in the US is constantly being accused of becoming less and less personal. The days of a “family doctor” that delivered you, treated your childhood illnesses from chicken pox to appendicitis, and eventually treated you while you were pregnant, are long gone. There are so many other players in the medical field now that the doctor sometimes is just needed to sign the papers. The physician assistant, nurse and lab tech do most of the patient interactions and people more often than not do not get one-on-one time with the doctor. Many people, especially the older generation, regard this as a very important part of the healing process that it now going by the wayside.
    I think the clowns provide a sharp contrast to the biomedical doctors. They are able to create a connection with the patient and talk to them about things other than the disease and treatment options. Raising someone’s spirits is just as important as healing their body.
    These healers do seem very credible and effective. If the person feels better emotionally, less depressed for example, they are more likely to get out of bed. This can help them get back on their feet faster, keep their muscles active, and lead to a faster recovery. It doesn’t take 4 years of medical school to be able to help cure someone. Most of us know this through our mother’s medicinal chicken noodle soup when we were little. The clowns surely raise spirits and that makes a huge difference when trying to get better.

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