Clown Doctors in NYC

The article “Clown Doctors: Shaman Healers of Western Medicine” makes the comparison between clown doctors in The Big Apple Circus Clown Unit with non-Western healers, specifically Shamans. Both dress in unique costumes and act in a certain behavior, and both perform an act of some kind. “Common to both kinds of performance are sleight of hand, ventriloquism, music, and feats of skill that seem to break natural and cultural laws.” Through their non-conventional healing methods, clown doctors and Shamans both work to help the patient and family deal with illness as well as uplifting spirits and providing “complementary therapy.”

The healers discussed in this article are the clown doctors in The Big Apple Circus Clown Unit. Because they are clowns, they do not practice any medicine and are in the hospital to alleviate stress and anxiety. Often times they are told where to go by doctors and nurses and they are not allowed to goof around in the cafeteria due to the requests of some doctors. From this we can see that the clown doctors have a lower social status than the doctors, but they are still important members of the healthcare team. The clown doctors work to emotionally and psychologically heal patients and their families by distracting them from their illness through laughter and comedy. They do this through their outlandish costumes and their doctor’s bags filled with magic tricks, puppets, instruments, bubbles, balls to juggle, and many other comical props. They also make silly jokes with the nurses and kids to help ease the tension and create a more positive atmosphere.

The clown doctors in this article work with western healthcare professionals to provide “complementary therapy” to patients and their families. In Western medicine, treatment is usually delivered through surgery or pharmaceutical drugs, but the clown doctors provide an alternative form of treatment. Their goal is to deliver emotional and psychological healing to those who are suffering from illness and to ease the burden as much as possible. By providing emotional healing, the clown doctors work cooperatively with practicing physicians to treat the patient as a whole person, rather than just a body.

This Post Has 1 Comment

  1. Victoria Heilmann says:

    The clown doctors are a very interesting method in my eyes but a very good idea. As you mention, compared to biomedical doctors they are seen as lower on the totem pole because they are subject to the instruction of the doctors in most cases. This may also be because doctors go through a lot more schooling and rigorous work, which is often more respected in the hospital. Also, compared to biomedical doctors, the clown doctors use humor to relieve psychological stress from the patients rather than hands on biological methods and medication, which only treat the physical body. The clown doctors do not seem quite as legitimate and credible as the regular westernized health care system because of the schooling and the training actual doctors receive (as I mentioned above). However, the clown doctors in these hospitals do seem to bring a solid level of effectiveness to the table with their practices. They help alleviate the anxiety patients may have or stress which comes from the physical symptoms while the doctors help alleviate the physical symptoms themselves. Attempting to treat all parts of the illness including physical, mental, and emotional aspects and not just the physical illness can often help speed up the recovery of a patient.

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