Clown Doctors find new ways to bring joy to patients in Covid time

Photo: archive of ZDRAVOTNÍ KLAUN, o.p.s.

Clown Doctors (Zdravotní klaun in Czech) have been delivering laughter and joy to children and seniors at Czech health care facilities for two decades. Now, with the Covid situation, the organisation is having to meet fresh challenges – and doing valuable work online. I discussed the scope of what Clown Doctors can do at present with director Kateřina Slámová Kubešová.

“Luckily, despite this situation, we can still visit live our partner organisations, which means hospitals and homes for the elderly.

“We’re happy to be there really live and we stand side by side with all medical staff.”

Has the situation changed over the course of the pandemic? Obviously on Monday it will be a year since the first case was detected here.

Photo: archive of ZDRAVOTNÍ KLAUN,  o.p.s.

“We returned to hospitals quite soon, after the first lockdown, in May 2020.

“I think that is based on our long-term cooperation with hospitals – they really gave us big trust.

“What also helped was that we set very strict hygiene measures regarding how to be in hospitals.

“We prepared these measures together with epidemiologists from the main hospitals.

“It is quite strict. We use respirators and a long distance [from clients], short time and so on.

“We were very creative and flexible, but also we need the trust.

“So we went back to, I don’t know, 70 percent of the institutions from May, June last year.”

Photo: archive of ZDRAVOTNÍ KLAUN,  o.p.s.

Is it a bit strange to do clowning when you have to have social distancing?

“It is. Medical clowns say that the problem is your breath – and that is the food for improvisation.

“Medical clowns have no prepared shows or performances usually; 90 percent of these activities are improvisation.

“And they have to improvise all the time. It lends a lot of flexibility.”

If people in hospital can’t have visitors, how does that change the significance when clowns visit them? Is it a more intense experience for everybody?

Photo: archive of ZDRAVOTNÍ KLAUN,  o.p.s.

“We get a lot of appreciation for our visits.

“Usually we get that from the parents and the children, but we’ve now got lots of feedback from exhausted personnel, meaning medical staff and non-medical staff, because as you know in the whole republic it’s quite a demanding time.

“So I think they’ve been really happy that they can rely on us, and not only in front of the hospitals – sometimes clowns also welcome people to hospitals – but of course in the wards.”

Could you tell us please about the online component of the work of the Clown Doctors?

“We offer to hospitals, if we can’t come there, that clowns can join with the medical staff through an online application and the clowns visit through tablets or Facebook.

“But the second thing, and I think it’s also important for the general public, is that it’s for everybody.

Photo: archive of ZDRAVOTNÍ KLAUN,  o.p.s.

“You can very easily, for free, order online medical clowns for your kids, if your child is sick at home or at the hospital.

“You can order 30 minutes of nice, funny time with a clown.

“You can choose the date, time, clowns.

“You can use the gallery and see what you like and the clowns, through a safe application, can join and be with you.”

And children who are in quarantine can also enjoy this service?

“Yes. And of course when they are at home they invite parents or siblings, and they can really have a good time together.”