With illness often comes depression and despondency but some doctors believe the best way to heal is through love, compassion and laughter. One such medical practitioner is Dr Patch Adams, a physician, comedian and clown.
Dr Adams visited the Aga Khan University Hospital’s (AKUH) Children’s Hospital on Saturday to spread joy among the young patients and their families.
The Children’s Hospital is paving the way in Pakistan to bring in a cultural shift in healthcare by adding laughter and humour while serving patients. The hospital staff has been training with Dr Patch to use clowning to help lighten the hospital environment, which can often be intimidating for children, and using love and compassion to set patients more at ease.
The Children’s Hospital held a gala where former patients and their families enjoyed a fun-filled afternoon of clowning around with Dr Adams and Children’s Hospital doctors.
According to Dr Salman Kirmani, chairperson of paediatrics and child health at AKUH, this is exactly what children and their parents are looking for during such a stressful time. “We are privileged that we get to work with patients and help those who are in need and we have found that during illness, besides our skills as doctors and our world-class medical facilities, what families are looking for is love and laughter. So we will give them that.”
Medical school curriculum is formal and pedantic, and hence practitioners, doctors and nurses are often found to be intimidating, especially for children, he explained.
“We don’t want children to feel like they are coming to a hospital. They should see this as a fun house,” said Dr Babar Hasan, the service line chief of the paediatric department.
The clown techniques and attending to patients with love and closeness have shown remarkable success.
“Children who were bed-ridden start laughing and dancing when we wear funny hats and clown around with them. That moment brightens up not just the child’s day, but seeing their children happy and laughing has a tremendous impact on their parents,” related Naureen Lalani, the nurse manager at the Children’s Hospital.
The Children’s Hospital keeps patient certainty at the heart of its caregiving. Nurses are central to caregiving and the hospital recognises this. The Children’s Hospital has a unique nursing mentorship system whereby nurses are empowered – their voices are central to determining treatment and care for patients and they are assigned role models within the team to support them.
Keeping patient comfort central, the Children’s Hospital has streamlined processes to make children undergoing treatment more comfortable by revising time periods for NPO status. It is found that healing is accelerated through play and joy. The Children’s Hospital has introduced play therapy for inpatient children.
With the goal of providing high-quality care for patients, the Children’s Hospital initiative of the well baby clinic educates and informs parents about the importance of the first clinic visit after birth.
These measures have resulted in high levels of patient satisfaction and greater comfort for patients and families. The philosophy behind this quality of care is to treat a person, which extends to support for families, and not just treat a disease.