Students learn how to bring joy to sick children through medical clowning


By Anne Marie Amacher

Students from St. Ambrose University in Davenport learn about medical clowning during a two-day workshop with Hearts and Noses Hospital Clown Troupes near Boston. Also in attendance were members of the Quad City Clown Troupe.

DAVENPORT — Stu­dents from St. Ambrose University weren’t just clowning around Feb. 22-23 — they were learning how to provide relief for sick children and their families.
Christine Urish, an occupational therapy professor at St. Ambrose, said a two-day medical clowning workshop enhanced the semester-long course that teaches students how to bring a patient a positive sense of empowerment and a sense of joy.
Urish learned about the group Hearts and Noses Hospital Clown Troupes out of the Boston area. Members of the troupe came to teach 18 St. Ambrose psychology and occupational therapy students about clowning in the medical field. The group was joined by some members of the Quad City Clown Troupe.
Students were taught how to approach a patient. “Ask to be invited in. If the patient says no, then leave,” Urish said. She noted that doctors and nurses come in and out of rooms all the time. “It’s a hostile environment for some patients,” Urish said. “Our responsibility is to give them a sense of power, distract them, and engage them in something positive.”
She said the clown troupes taught several exercises such as how to express emotion with the face or body, paying attention to the surroundings, and more.
In medical clowning, students will not wear colorful wigs, clothing or makeup. That is why expressing emotions is critical.
Medical clowns can perform skits, sing songs and interact with patients.
The students will practice their skills through the rest of the semester. “One weekend was not enough.”
Near the end of the semester students will visit sites such as the Children’s Therapy Center and Robert Young Community Center in the Quad-City region.
“This is just the start,” Urish said. “We hope to develop this (program) every other year.”
The clowning program was possible due to a Center for Integrated Learning grant.

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