Clown Doctors in NYC

The Clown Care Unit of NYC. Such a title brings to mind such a variety of scenarios, however the real description is exactly as the title sounds. The CCU is a group of PROFESSIONAL clowns who are employees in the pediatric units of New York hospitals, and spend their days entertaining bored and sick children as well as their anxious families. These employees go around each day dressed in big red noses and armed with noise making toys, appealing more to the emotional and social condition of the patient’s illness rather than the medical aspect. Most of these “clowns” have attended professional clown school or have some sort of experience in acting, staging, etc. Their days are spent visiting each unit of the pediatric ward and performing skits, songs, jokes, and anything else to distract from the child’s illness. They make themselves out to be as silly as possible in order to make the child feel comfortable, in charge, and at ease.

This practice has been around since 1986 when it was created by Michael Christensen. Since it’s creation it has been compared and related to the medical healing methods of the Shaman, which deals with more of the social condition rather than the clinical symptoms. These so called clowns are still seen as healers of society, yet their approach strays from western style medicine. As the article states, there are two kinds of “reality” that medicine deals with, scientific and ordinary biophysical dimensions of health. While western style medicine practices more ordinary treatment, the CCU approaches the body and its symptoms through primarily psychological healing. Their techniques are also seen as very similar to the Shaman in that they tend to “manipulate symbols of societies medical systems” in order to produce psychological healing. In other words, they use silly things in order to decrease the intimidation and fear found by children in doctors and their equipment.  In general the methods of the CCU are also very similar to Shaman methods as far as play acting, slight of hand, music, use of puppets, and many more aspects.

An example of such healing was mentioned in the article as  Iroquois Indians  False Faces using clown-like theatrics to exorcise disease as a method of healing. Although the Clown doctors are very similar to other Native American tribes in terms of psychological healing, they differ in the fact that they operate in a modern urban culture that we see everyday around us. They tend to blend in more with our ideas of western medicine unlike other tribes who are seen maybe as more ancient or undeveloped.



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  1. Kelly Delorme says:

    While clowns and biomedical doctors have many differences, I believe they also have many similarities. Both doctors and clowns are focused on the well-being of their patients, and the healing and treatment of patients. Biomedical doctors focus on the symptoms, treatment plans, and monitoring vitals, while clowns focus more on the emotional and social aspects of treatment. The emotional and social aspects of treatment are extremely important, especially in children. I think this program is really important because the social and emotional aspects of healing are often overlooked, especially when children are suffering from severe, chronic illnesses. Hospitals have become serious places that most often lack fun and humor. This program seems credible and because the clowns are trained professionals, and their presence would help the children’s emotional state. I think this program is definitely legitimate because it would help children remain children even throughout severe illnesses. It would enable children to focus on laughter and fun, instead of their illness. I think the clowns would be really effective healers for both the children and the parents. The children would feel more comfortable and happy, and the clowns would be able to alleviate some stress that the parents would be experiencing as well. It would give the family a chance to bond over fun experiences instead of only sickness.

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