Is there a role for clowns in paediatric intensive care units?

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Hospital clowning is a programme in healthcare facilities involving visits from specially trained actors. In the paediatric intensive care unit (PICU), clowning may appear inappropriate and less intuitive. The patient could appear too ill and/or sedated, the environment too crowded or chaotic and the parents too stressed. Relying on our experience with professionally trained clowns both in France and Canada, the purpose of this article is to offer a model for hospital clowning and to suggest standards of practice for the implementation of clowning in PICUs. In this work, we provide a framework for the implementation of clown care in the PICU, to overcome the challenges related to the complex technical environment, the patient's critical illness and the high parental stress levels. Regardless of the specifics of the PICU, our experience suggests that professional clown activity is feasible, safe and can offer multiple benefits to the child, his/her parents and to hospital personnel. Due to the specific challenges in the PICU, clowns must be educated and prepared to work in this highly specialised environment. We stress that prior to clowning in a PICU, professional performers must be highly trained, experienced, abide by a code of ethics and be fully accepted by the treating healthcare team.

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