Hospitals are no fun for us. Imagine being trapped as a young child in a hospital bed, perhaps with a serious illness requiring several extended visits. Nursing center staff do their best to keep their patients entertained, but of course their top priority is always the medical one.
This is where "giggles" come into play. These professional entertainers are trained and paid to accompany hospitals to cheer children up with music and laughter. As a researcher interested in the benefits of laughter, I am fascinated by the work that giggling doctors do and how they can make a difference to sick and disabled children. But as a scientist, I'm also challenged as to how we can measure these effects.
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During a typical visit, a chaste doctor can see 25 children spending about ten minutes with each. In a year, a giggle doctor will visit over 1,000 children. They are not medical professionals, but the charity provides training on how to work with disabled and disabled children and how best to interact with doctors and nurses.
Currently, they are visiting 21 hospitals, three hospices and two specialized care centers across England. Feedback shows that hospitals believe they improve the experience of children in the hospital. So far, however, there has been no systematic research to determine how they help children. The charity keeps a good record of the work of their teams, but they have no systematic data. Part of the reason is that the benefits are not tangible.
Giggle Doctors are actors, entertainers, musicians and magicians. Laughter is important, but there is more. Any other interaction with an adult in a hospital is transactional. Giggling doctors do not use humor to distract from an unpleasant procedure; They are an escape and a respite. The focus is on connection and attention.
Clare Parry Jones, the children as Dr. Ding Dong has been a giggling doctor for 18 years. In an interview with the BBC, she said, "I've learned to celebrate the time I have with every child … It's a gift to be able to spend time with people and be around nothing else to take care of her. "
What does science say?
I am not a gynecologist but a child psychologist. I know that children with serious illnesses do not stop being children, and as a laughter researcher I know that the secret to any good performance is to know your audience and be able to connect with them. For this reason, Dr. Repertoire's repertoire includes Ding Dong a lot of jokes about Poo.
But scientific research on the health benefits of laughter was surprisingly thin on the ground. There are indications of physiological benefits of laughter. Robin Dunbar and his colleagues showed in 2011 that laughter can increase our pain threshold, and recent research has shown that this is because laughter stimulates the release of endogenous opioids, the body's painkillers. Other research with adults suggests that laughter can improve vascular function and increase serotonin levels.
The closest match in the research literature are two small pilot studies. Margaret Stuber, a child psychiatrist at UCLA, has worked with the US charity Rx Laughter ™, which aims to promote the comedy in a therapeutic setting. In 2007, they asked children to watch funny videos in very cold water before, during or after their hand. The amount of laughter did not change her pain tolerance, but kids kept her hand in the water longer as they were distracted by the video. However, only 18 children were tested and Stuber himself describes this as a pilot study.
A group at the Holland Bloorview Children's Rehabilitation Hospital in Toronto, Canada, experienced in 2011 how 13 children with disabilities responded to two therapeutic clowns to a control of television. The study measured physiological and emotional responses, but the results were a bit confused. Although the moods of the children improved, the physiological data did not show clear patterns and the sample size was again tiny.
But should laughter be considered a frivolous luxury? Parental feedback indicates that the visits have reduced stress and anxiety and that measuring the impact of such programs is important for their expansion. Although perhaps the real benefits of immaterial are: found in these magical moments.
– The Conversation