A new program for medical clowns, the first of its kind in Israel, opened this year in the Department of Theater at the University of Haifa. The medical clowns will study for a BA degree in Theater and will participate in specially-designed courses in the field of nursing – with the goal of providing them with a range of skills that will enable their integration into the field of healthcare in hospitals throughout the country.
“The program will teach medical clowns things you don’t learn in acting school like the relationship between caregiver and patient or the psychological state of a patient in pain. I believe that ultimately this program will create better medical clowns,” said Dr. Ati Citron, head of the Department of Theater at the University of Haifa.
The idea for the program began at a chance meeting in Switzerland between Prof. Ada Spitzer, Vice President for External Affairs and Resource Development, and researcher in the field of nursing, and a group of medical clowns, where they proposed the idea that medical clowning become part of academic studies. Less than five months later, medical clowning has become an academic part of the University of Haifa.
“Clowning enables the opening up of avenues of communication with patients that the medical staff doesn’t succeed with or doesn’t know how to connect with. When a clown arrives, he uses skills that open up gates, cross boundaries, and reach places that most people don’t allow themselves to go to in a hospital setting. Clowning engages in different areas than any other paramedical field. We reach other places, create experiences. We create distraction, so the patient won’t feel his pain and can fly with us to fantasy lands. This is actually a type of therapy – clown therapy,” says Herzl Tziony, a member of the group “Dream Doctors” and a student in the new program at the University of Haifa.
According to Tziony, the past few years have given rise to an understanding of the importance of the profession of the medical clown, and while a few years ago their work was funded by private donations, today hospitals all over Israel share the cost of their salaries. Although hospitals understand their importance, the health system does not. “Academic training will help to create standards as to who can treat patients and who cannot. There is a tendency to see the profession of medical clowning as something not serious and temporary, but the profession requires consistency and investment. Academic training of clowning will bolster the idea that this is not a passing phenomenon and will advance the professionalism of the clown, enabling him to use of the tools of clowning as an accepted form of treatment,” Tsiony stressed.
Dr. Citron elaborated, “They have already studied the profession of clowning. We want to expand their understanding in the realm of theater and in the field of nursing. In addition to the studies that each student in the department completes, specific courses have been specially designed for these students. For example, they will be offered a course on the Sociology of Humor and Clowning, a course that is not given anywhere else in Israel.”
“There is an entire field of study within nursing that relates to the relationship between patients and caregivers,” Dr Citron continued. “A caregiver needs to understand the psychology of a patient in a hospital setting, a patient in pain or with a serious disease. A medical clown needs to understand his role within this context and therefore we believe that at the end of their studies they will not only know more about the theoretical aspects, but will also be much better clowns. ”
In this year’s program there are 19 students from the “Dream Doctors” group studying medical clowning, but according to Dr. Citron, since beginning the program numerous requests have been received to expand the program in the coming years. His personal goal is much higher. “Today we accept students who are already medical clowns and build on their knowledge. My goal is to open a complete course of study at the University of Haifa that will include both the practical aspects of medical clowning and the academic aspects.”
Source: University of Haifa
It will look like this: New Program for Medical Clowns Opened in Israel