Humor in Health Care


There has been plenty of discussion about Kelley Johnson’s monologue and comments from The View. I just took a look at the response from the President of the American Nurses Association, who said, “Nurses don’t wear costumes; they save lives.” and its true, you won’t ever see a nurse wearing joker teeth welcoming a patient.

I am grateful to all the people who have stood up for nurses by responding, supporting, and making us feel like the honorable, trusted, and caring profession that we are. I am also thankful to Pamela Cipriano for her quote above, because that has encouraged me to take a lighter approach in this blog article. Everything doesn’t always have to be heavy or philosophical or serious, right?

While I understand what Pamela meant by “Nurses don’t wear costumes,” I will share that I did wear a costume once, when I was a staff nurse on an adolescent unit. It was Halloween and most of the nurses dressed in costumes that day. I was taking care of a particular 14-year-old boy who needed a new IV placed. In all my costumed glory, I went in and put an IV in this adolescent’s arm. His dad sat by the bedside as I did so. And his dad was a VP of the hospital. I never knew if that patient’s father was amused by my costume or annoyed thinking I wasn’t taking my job seriously. He didn’t say anything to me about it.

I sometimes think back to that experience, especially around Halloween, and wonder when it’s ok to infuse humor into health care. I sometimes use humor with patients I see for diabetes education, but then again those visits are not life or death situations. Hospital staff where I work still dress up every year, but I have never worn a costume to work again.

Personally, I like and appreciate humor. But when I’m the patient I do expect health care professionals to use it appropriately. I remember when I was a patient in room # e111, a joke that I didn’t “get” was sort of an issue I didn’t want on my mind. I’ve noticed in the Diabetes Online Community that people often discuss with frustration the jokes that are told about diabetes. Sometimes funny things happen to nurses at work, and those times (and memories) can help us get through tough jobs. In fact, humor can be one way nurses take care of themselves. Are there ways we can use humor to help people heal?

How do you use humor in health care? Or what funny thing that has happened while you were working in a health care setting? What did you learn from the experience?

One thought on “Humor in Health Care

  1. I find it difficult to get through the day without humor. It’s usually little things, but I also often use humor to build rapport with my patients. I find they more readily disclose sensitive information after I have made myself relatable or help them see me more as a caring person and less of an intimidating professional figure. It helps them see I’m on their side, and I find it helps them cope with their experience. They’re already in the hospital. Why can’t I make them smile while they’re there?

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