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Humor plays an important role in healthcare even when patients are terminally ill
Date:4/8/2008

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 thei
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Contact: Annette Whibley
wizard.media@virgin.net
Wiley-Blackwell
Source:Eurekalert

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