“Neither be ye grieved; for the joy of the LORD is your strength. Nehemiah 8:10 (The Israel Bible™)
Although medical clowns are found in healing facilities throughout the world, Israel is on the cutting edge of using medical clowns not only for patient entertainment but also as an integral part of medical staff and treatment processes.
“For over a decade, the scientific community has examined if medical clowns actually increase the healing and wellbeing of patients,” shared Tsour Shriqui, Director of The Dream Doctors Project, with Breaking Israel News. “Studies prove that medical clowns help to reduce anxiety in patients and their family, lessen pain, alleviate depression, reduce Post Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD), increase the odds for in-vitro fertilization treatments to result in a pregnancy, and even assist in raising the morale of drained medical staff, to name just some of the benefits.”
Word is spreading globally that Israel’s The Dream Doctors Project is a unique model worth replicating. In 2011, The Dream Doctors Project held its First International Conference on Medicine and Medical Clowning in Jerusalem. Two hundred and fifty guests from 22 countries, including medical clowns, representatives of medical clowning associations, physicians and nurses attended.
Following the presentation of several medical studies on the issue of medical clowning, a Scientific Research Fund was established. Thus far, the Scientific Committee has supported over 30 studies demonstrating the healing benefits of medical clowning.
“Ever since we founded Dream Doctors, we have worked diligently to have the field recognized as a paramedical profession similar to nurses and physicians,” explained Shriqui. “Now, thanks to the academic studies, we know that medical clowning transforms the lives of patients and their families.”
Dream Doctor medical clowns are already accepted as integral parts of healthcare staff in hospitals throughout Israel. However, this formal recognition will determine the number and setting of medical clown positions in pediatric and other wards. This recognition means that the Ministry of Health will take charge of this profession similar to all paramedical professions.
It takes approximately five months to become a certified Dream Doctor medical clown. Trainees must have a rich background in dramatic arts including acting, street theatre, and physical clowning. Dream Doctor professional training incorporates theoretical and practical studies and includes expressive art therapy, psychology, physical clowning, acting, nursing and medicine.
Following completion of the training, a new position for a hospital medical clown will be opened only once funds have been secured to support this addition to hospital staff. “Israeli hospitals keep requesting more and more medical clowns on order to provide relief and healing for children, assist medical staff and achieve better medical outcomes to countless individuals,” noted Shriqui. “We are in the middle of a crowdfunding campaign to raise the urgently needed funds for this needed staff.”
Medical clowns actually fall under the Biblical commandment for visiting the sick (called bikkur cholim in Hebrew). In the prophets Ezekiel and Zechariah, God is described as a caretaker of the sick, the weak, and the lost. Additionally, man is commanded to emulate God, as it says in Deuteronomy 28:9, “And you shall walk in His ways.”
The Holy 17th century Rabbi Yeshayahu Horowitz, writes that the commandment of visiting the sick involves three components. The first is with one’s body – physically visiting a person and assisting in their medical care when possible. The second is with one’s soul – praying for a person’s recovery. The third is with one’s money – giving charity on behalf of the sick person.
“Dream Doctors medical clowns work as one with medical crews,” said Shriqui to Breaking Israel News. “Our job is not just to be funny but also to help the patient put things in perspective. We empower people with serious medical conditions to cope with their illness and ease their anxieties. We actually facilitating 40 medical procedures including drawing blood, calming people in the operating room or post operative, image scans, help adults getting dialysis, work in oncology wards, and more.”
Clearly, medical clowning is no joke. Israel’s medical staff and patients alike understand the benefits of medical clowns and welcome their presence in hospitals. “We are praying that we can expand our work so that every hospital in Israel will be aided by the professionalism of The Dream Doctors Project medical clowns.”