Clown doctors to bring chuckles

12:06, Jul 22 2009
CURATIVE COMICS: Carrot the Clown and Dr Thomas Petschner raise  smiles outside Christchurch Hospital yesterday.
CURATIVE COMICS: Carrot the Clown and Dr Thomas Petschner raise smiles outside Christchurch Hospital.

Laughter is the best medicine for Christchurch's new "clown doctors".

The comical health specialists, who help patients via humour, are due to start work in Christchurch Hospital in September.

Clown doctors already operate in clown-care programmes worldwide.

Christchurch-based doctor Thomas Petschner, who brought the idea to New Zealand, said the clowns' aim was "to increase the wellbeing of the patients and to restore the healthy powers in the sick person to aid their healing process".

The hunt was under way for Christchurch performing artists who could take on the paid clown doctor role, with auditions in August.

"These people will receive a comprehensive clowning training," Petschner said.

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"They will also receive a training of a medical nature, which will give them the skills and knowledge to understand some of the complexities of illnesses and human behaviour the basis for the work in a hospital atmosphere.

"Only the clowns who have completed this training and are certified will have the opportunity to work in the hospital environment."

The first clown doctors would visit the hospital once a week for up to four hours.

However, Clown Doctors co-ordinator Rita Noetzel hoped the clowning hours would be extended.

"The extent and expansion of the clowning work will depend on the ongoing funding situation," she said. "Our goal is to do our work even on a daily basis."

Christchurch Hospital child health psychologist Tony White favoured the scheme.

"Resources that help the emotional side of health and caring for sick people are few and far between and are often considered a luxury," he said.

"This is a resource that was going to add to that, and no cost to the hospital."

The Clown Doctors New Zealand Charitable Trust will start work in Christchurch, but it is hoped the scheme will spread throughout New Zealand.

For more information on Clown Doctors New Zealand or to apply to become a clown, email smile@clowndoctors.org.nz

The Press