Navigation Links
Humor plays an important role in healthcare even when patients are terminally ill

Humour can play an essential role in the most serious healthcare settings, even when patients are receiving intensive or end of life care, according to research in the April issue of the UK-based Journal of Clinical Nursing.

Canadian researchers spent nearly 300 hours observing and carrying out interviews with staff, patients and families in an intensive care unit and a palliative care unit for people with terminal illnesses.

They concluded that humour played an essential role in promoting team relationships and adding a human dimension to the care and support that staff provided to seriously ill patients and their families.

The researchers found that staff used humour in a number of ways, including:

  • To cope with, and sometimes distance themselves, from difficult situations. As one interviewee commented: When youve had the most stressful day and youre ready to cry, sometimes its easier to bring out humour and take it in the other direction instead of bawling on somebodys shoulder.

  • To connect with other healthcare professionals and provide mutual support. Shared laughter energised and nurtured a sense of community. If you have those fun moments and that connectedness even the worst hell can happen said one healthcare professional who worked with terminally ill patients. You sail through it as opposed to walking out really wounded

  • To reduce tension when things dont go as well as they could do. A doctor who admitted he had been hasty suggesting that a terminally ill man give up his apartment so soon was greeted with the quip: Shall I chart that you made a confession or that you made a mistake

  • To express frustration at life-prolonging measures that staff disagreed with. Staff in the intensive care unit told researchers how they paralleled what was happening to one patient by using an inflatable dinosaur called Dino and putting him through the same interventions. He became a symbol of their dissatisfaction with the situation.

  • To connect with patients and make them feel cared for as individuals. When a health care aide took a joke picture of a patient with a bubble bath helmet on his head to put him at ease it became one of his prized possessions. He showed it to everyone who visited as evidence of the special treatment he was receiving. And when he died, it was displayed alongside important family photos.

  • To reduce patients embarrassment with the indignity of needing help with toileting and other highly personal functions. When a patient suffered an episode of incontinence she reported that she found the nurses matter of fact humour - what goes in must come out - made her feel less distressed.

However, the researchers also found that humour could also create distance and prevent serious discussion. As one nurse commented: If Im joking with you, Im interacting with you. Were talking but I dont ask you whats bugging you...Im not really finding out why youre upset.

It wasnt just the healthcare staff who used humour to alleviate difficult situations.

One nurse recalled admiring an expensive recliner chair a patient had brought in with her to the palliative care unit. The patient was delighted that she didnt have to pay a cent for two years and quipped that in that case she would never have to pay for it!

Another recalled how a patients monitor kept going off in the intensive care unit. Dont worry, if I can hear it Im still alive the patient joked.

Then there was the satisfaction that staff felt when they saw a patient smile. It makes you feel youve done something, if not medically, maybe emotionally said one nurse.

Some people feel that humour is trivial and unprofessional in healthcare settings, but this study shows that it is neither says co-author Dr Ruth Dean, a nurse researcher from the University of Manitoba.

Dr Dean carried out the study in the palliative care unit, spending 200 hours observing and informally interacting with care providers, patients and family members and carrying out semi-structured interviews with 15 healthcare staff, including nurses, doctors, a social worker and physiotherapist.

Her colleague Joanne Major from the Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg spent 72 hours in an intensive care unit, observing and carrying out semi-structured interviews with 15 nurses.

Despite major differences between the work of the intensive care and palliative care units, they are both areas where serious illness, high anxiety and patient and family distress are prevalent and staff are placed in emotionally demanding situations says Dr Dean. Crises are frequent, death is close by and emotions tend to run high.

The authors conclude that humour was very important in these stressful healthcare settings.

One member of staff referred to humour as the glue that holds human connections together, a statement that was clearly reinforced by our findings says Dr Dean.

Our research suggests that nurses and other healthcare professional dont need to suppress humour. They should trust their instincts about when it is appropriate.

Combined with scientific skill and compassion, humour offers a humanising dimension in healthcare that is too valuable to be overlooked.


Contact: Annette Whibley

Related medicine news :

1. Humor and Hope Sustain NJ Woman Through Disabling Movement Disorder, Election Campaign
2. Aromatherapy Gift Line Sheds Humorous Light on Modern Therapy
3. Family Discussion Plays Role in Breast Cancer Awareness
4. Price Plays Part in Perceived Power of Medication
5. Rare Gene Mutation Plays Role in Longevity
6. Scientists solve structure of gene regulator that plays key role in cancer
7. Gene Plays Jekyll-and-Hyde Role in Deadly Brain Cancer
8. Gene plays Jekyll and Hyde in brain cancer
9. One Million PLAYSTATION(R)3 Users Participate in Folding@home Research Project
10. Study Spots Gene That Plays Role in Infertility
11. Heart-Shaped Light Displays on Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Building Show Support for American Heart Month, National Wear Red Day
Post Your Comments:
(Date:11/27/2015)... ... November 27, 2015 , ... Intellitec Solutions ... SL User Group (MSDSLUG). Recognized as Microsoft’s official group for end users of ... SL software users, partners, industry experts and representatives. Intellitec Solutions’ membership status demonstrates ...
(Date:11/27/2015)... ... November 27, 2015 , ... The moment ... itself for not only fulfilling the needs of advisers and clients but going ... price and providing top-tier customer service. However, there's always room for improvement, which ...
(Date:11/27/2015)... ... 2015 , ... CBD College is proud to announce that on ... accreditation to its Diagnostic Medical Sonography program. CBD College is honored to join this ... colleges and universities in the state of California make the cut. CBD College is ...
(Date:11/27/2015)... (PRWEB) , ... November 27, 2015 , ... Dr. ... Medical Associates, Inc. and Dr. Tucker Bierbaum with Emergency Medicine at St., ... observed that both STEMI and Sepsis conditions present in similar ways and require time-critical ...
(Date:11/27/2015)... ... , ... Indosoft Inc., developer and distributor of the world-class ... (Long Term Support) into its Q-Suite 5.10 product line. , Making the change ... version of Asterisk that will receive not only security fixes, but feature and ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:11/26/2015)... November 26, 2015 ... adds "Global Repaglinide Industry ... Report on China Repaglinide Market, 2010-2019" ... data and information to its online ... . --> ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... , Nov. 25, 2015 ... the addition of the "Global Brain ... their offering. --> ) ... "Global Brain Monitoring Devices Market 2015-2019" ... Research and Markets ( ) has ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... WILMINGTON, N.C. , Nov. 25, 2015 /PRNewswire/ ... announces the planned investment of at least $15.8 ... in Wilmington, NC . The ... services capacity to meet the growing demands of ... Wilmington site expansion will provide up ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: