Clown Doctors: Shaman Healers of Western Medicine reflects on the healing performed by professional clowns in various medical centers in New York City. These “Clown Doctors” are specially trained, not to provide conventional remedies to alleviate illness, but instead offer entertainment, distraction and comfort. They engage in play with the patients and their families, as well as the healthcare staff in the hallways and in hospital rooms throughout the pediatric ward bringing cheer and laughter as they go. They wear unusual costumes, engage in ventriloquism, perform magic tricks, and carry along props such as musical instruments and bubbles. The clowns deliver psychosocial support for the children through a better illness experience. Parodying as doctors brings comic relief and fun to the hospital experience as well as a distraction from feelings of distress, worry or boredom.
Children visited by the Clown Care Unit are receiving their healthcare in the form of medical practices from both the folk sector and the professional sector. Specifically, clown doctors could be regarded as sacred healers among the folk sector, similar to shamans. They use a holistic approach to health to examine all aspects of the patient’s life beyond the physiological to include emotional systems. Clown doctors employ “social healing, suggestion, and manipulation of cultural symbols” to heal children through laughter and fun. Clown doctors don’t have the privileges and authority, as well as the trust that is put into physicians. And a clown’s behavior is perceived as unprofessional, so clown doctors as a legitimate and effective medical therapy is questionable for some. Therefore, I believe that clown doctors in comparison to physicians have a lower income and social status. Although clown doctors may not be widely established in the medical systems, they do operate within the professional sector among physicians and nurses. The professional sector involves the different aspects of illness experience not addressed by clown doctors. Nurses and physicians are included in this sector, along with other legally certified health professionals that employ biomedicine. Physicians apply principles of biology and physiology to medicine to diagnosis and treat illness and preserve health discounting other aspects that that influence illness. Symptoms in this sectors are treated with the use of drugs, surgeries and even radiation therapies. Personally, I feel including both the folk and professional sectors when practicing medicine offers the most effective healing as suggested in this article.