Clowning Around in the Hospital
By Bettina Velona
Laughter and giggles fill the room as a little toy cube spits out Moooooos and Baaaaaahs. No, you're not in a toy store, but at the outpatient chemotherapy/infusion area of Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center. You might wonder what there is to laugh about. Well, volunteers cheer up patients as they receive their treatments in an attempt to balance unpleasant medical procedures with some pleasant distractions.
MGH is among an increasing number of hospitals that are adding humor therapy to their care. The Cancer Center's HOPES Program in collaboration with the MGH Making a Difference Grant Program and the Volunteer Department, introduced the "Humor Cart" in April 2005. Patients can pick jokes out of a fish bowl, play with interactive toys and puppets, listen to funny tapes and soon will be able to watch old TV comedy shows.
Humor provides a human connection in an otherwise sterile environment. Laughing with the hospital staff not only helps pass the time, it helps patients release stress and anxiety about their illnesses and treatments. "Patients experience that regardless of what happened to them, they still have the ability to laugh," says Maureen Ward, Program Manager of the Volunteer Department. Less occupied with a stress response, the body can concentrate on healing. Research has shown that laughter also boosts the immune system and helps our bodies produce more endorphin, a natural painkiller.
In many hospitals nationwide, cheering up patients on inpatient floors has become a daily occurrence. The hope is to bring the Humor Cart to other areas of the Cancer Center within the next year.
Hey, we've always known that laughter is the best medicine. We know about the powerful interaction of body and mind. It's nice to see hospitals humanize their care by balancing conventional medicine with emotional support. Bravo, MGH!
Bettina Velona is a freelance writer
living in Arlington
Copyright © 2005