Clown Doctors in NYC

Clown doctors of NYC cannot be considered medical doctors but clearly are making a positive impact since Michael Christensen founded the Clown Care Unit (CCU) in 1986. Since then the CCU has grown from two to thirty five clowns. Their mission is to relieve and enlighten or spread joy to New York City hospital patients (mostly children) from their disease or illness, as well as entertaining children in waiting rooms, mothers in outpatient waiting rooms, and comforting parents of children that are in intensive care units.

As previously stated, the healers are clowns dressed in white coat, hospital badge, glasses, and makeup (with red nose). The clowns carry equipment for balloon animal, bells, whistles, and other noise making tools. The clown doctors may use stereotypical clown entertainment like swallowing swords, magic tricks, or juggling to entertain a more broad audience such as those in waiting rooms. Once leaving the makeup room around 10a.m. each morning, clowns exchange laughs with anyone passing by on their way to the pediatric outpatient clinic. So long as the room contains waiting patients the clown will enter as what the doctor refers to as a “specialist for the child” blowing bubbles, playing music, and pulling clown noses out. Puppets seem to be popular entertainment and they even have technique to relieve a child which is originally terrified of clowns but showing reverse psychology, acting just as scared of the child. Even children in isolation get greeting from the clowns in the form of window gestures. After lunch clowns make stops at each pediatric room sometimes singing to long-term patients or distracting short-term patients from burns and other painful stimulants to their bodies. It seems that long-term patients sometimes seek the clowns and look forward to their presence as a way to get through the days and put a smile on their faces.

The systems these clowns operate in seem very broad. I think it would be difficult to change your mood and delivery based on whether it is an appropriate time or not. It seems that clowns are trained to be goofier in situations where the patient may be in for something more short-term or less serious, and more cautious if the patient is unstable, dealing with something potentially fatal, or possibly just heard negative news. I believe that patients are given the space needed to themselves or with family to come to terms and take any negative information in before a clown would be given the chance to “brighten their day”. Given the many pre-cautions the clowns must abide be, I find this way to provide relief and a positive attitude to younger children to be something special for the city of New York.

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  1. Ben Caldwell says:

    The Clown Care Unit seems like a very cool program. I can say from experience that spending an extended amount of time in the hospital as a kid is an awful experience. On top of fact that you are obviously ill if you’re in the hospital, you have to deal with the painful boredom. I can’t think of many things that I enjoy less than having to lay on a bed all day with your only excitement being the nurse making rounds to take your blood pressure and temperature.
    While their clinical knowledge is a joke compared to biomedical doctors, clown doctors can help ease the boredom of children and help keep their mind off of whatever their illness may be. It can also be extremely helpful in helping ease children with loved ones being treated. Seeing mom or dad with a bunch of tubes stuck in him or her can be terrifying. As the author of this post pointed out, gauging the audience is a delicate art that makes the clown doctors even more deserving of respect. As for efficacy, a don’t see how a positive attitude could possibly hurt a patient. I hope the CCU continues to brighten days and inspires similar programs in other areas.

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