Humour Helps Healthcare Staff and Patients

Photo: Laughing older man

Humour can help in difficult
situations © SXC

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.

However, the researchers also found that humour could also create distance and prevent serious discussion. As one nurse commented: “If I’m joking with you, I’m interacting with you. We’re talking but I don’t ask you what’s bugging you... I’m not really finding out why you’re upset.”

It wasn’t 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 didn’t 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 patient’s monitor kept going off in the intensive care unit. “Don’t worry, if I can hear it I’m still alive”, the patient joked.

Then there was the satisfaction that staff felt when they saw a patient smile. “It makes you feel you’ve 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.

The authors conclude that humour was very important in these stressful healthcare settings. “Our research suggests that nurses and other healthcare professional don’t 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”, says Dr Dean.

MEDICA.de; Source: Wiley-Blackwell