More Than Just an Entertainment Show: Identification of Medical Clowns’ Communication Skills and Therapeutic Goals

Orit Karnieli-Miller*, Orna Divon-Ophir, Doron Sagi, Liat Pessach-Gelblum, Amitai Ziv, Lior Rozental

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Medical clowns (MCs) are trained professionals who aim to change the hospital environment through humor. Previous studies focused on their positive impact and began identifying their various skills in specific situations. When placed in pediatrics, MCs face various challenges, including approaching frustrated adolescents who are unwilling to cooperate with their care, dealing with their anxious parents, and communicating in a team in the presence of other health professionals. Research that systematically describes MCs’ skills and therapeutic goals in meeting these challenges is limited. This article describes a qualitative, immersion/crystallization study, triangulating between 26 video-recorded simulations and 12 in-depth-semi-structured interviews with MCs. Through an iterative consensus-building process we identified 40 different skills, not limited to humor and entertainment. Four main therapeutic goals emerged: building a relationship, dealing with emotions, enhancing a sense of control, caring, and encouragement, and motivating treatment adherence. Mapping MCs’ skills and goals enhances the understanding of MCs’ role and actions to illustrate their unique caring practices. This clarification may help other healthcare professionals to recognize their practices and the benefits in involving them in care. Furthermore, other health professionals may apply some of the identified skills when faced with these challenges themselves.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-38
Number of pages14
JournalQualitative Health Research
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jan 2023


  • communication skills
  • connecting to patients
  • medical clowns
  • qualitative
  • therapeutic goals


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