Red Nose Day is a good excuse to learn about the initiatives going into children’s health
May 25 was Red Nose Day, an international fundraiser organized by Comic Relief, Inc., which seeks to bring an end to child poverty in the U.S. and in vulnerable communities around the world. The idea behind the “red nose” is to bring joy and laughter to children and young people, just as clowns have been doing throughout history. The day is a great opportunity to learn about some of the activists who have been trying to transform how we care for sick children.
You may remember the movie Patch Adams, in which Robin Williams plays a doctor who discovers the healing power of laughter in working with children who are seriously ill. Well, the film was based on a real physician, Hunter Doherty "Patch" Adams, who today is a comedian, social activist, clown, and author as well as a physician. He’s also the founder of the Gesundheit! Institute, a project devoted to providing holistic medical care located on 300 acres in West Virginia. The institute cared for patients between 1971 and 1983, before turning its attention full-time to raise funds for what it calls its “fantasy hospital.”
The organization is founded on six principles:
- Care is free; no third party reimbursement (private or public insurance) is accepted.
- No malpractice insurance is carried.
- Initial interviews with patients are 3-4 hours long.
- The health of the care-giver is as important as the health of the care-receiver.
- Patients are treated as friends.
- All complementary medicines are accepted.
You can see what a change this model represents from traditional medical care, especially with regards to the amount of time that the patients are able to spend with doctors and nurses. In addition to the hospital, the Institute leads educational programs (called The School for Designing a Society, or SDaS) and performs global outreach. For more about this model, watch a TED talk with Dr. “Patch” Adams from the Mayo Clinic in 2010.
Patch Adams offers just one approach to how to lighten the load of medical care with some laughter. Need some help on how to engage kids at different ages? Don’t worry—we weren’t all born a Patch Adams. It’s okay to need some suggestions on what kids find funny. Here are some useful resources:
Before you know it, you’ll be finding ways to put your patients at ease and be more relaxed yourself. And if you find yourself feeling self-conscious, just think of Patch Adams. He defines “clowning” as “spontaneous improvisational play.” We’re all capable of that!
This article is part of the weekly blog of the Salter School. We offer several professional training programs at our campuses in Malden and Fall River, MA. Reach out to us today for more information or to schedule a campus tour!