Dr. Peter Viccellio, professor of emergency medicine at Stony Brook University Hospital on Long Island, has seen many Covid-19 patients during his hours in the emergency room. A touch of playfulness and friendly humor helped alleviate an enormously painful situation for both his patients and the members of the overburdened hospital staff.
"Real recklessness can lead patients to believe that they will not see their fate today," said Dr. Viccellio, but he added that it must flow naturally. "If you are empathetic with the person, your humor will suit them more, it will not be forced. If you are not emotionally connected to them and force a joke, this can go very wrong."
Case in point: "A colleague of mine once said casually to a patient whose medical history he did not know:" Don't worry, at least it's not cancer, "recalled Dr. Viccellio." The patient replied, "Actually it is Doc. "
Other types of jokes that may be destructive are the humor within the group that mocks patients or other members of the hospital staff, and the gallows humor, which focuses on the darker sides of medicine. And you have to be careful not to ease someone else's pain.
Despite these potential pitfalls, some hospitals have initiated formal humor programs that provide funny books and videos, and invite clowns to interact with their younger patients. Some supervisors also develop innovative ways to bring humor into their own practice.
Mary Laskin, a nurse case manager at Kaiser Permanente in San Diego, has worked online with her chronic pain patients, teaching them laughing exercises in addition to exercises designed to develop other positive mental states such as gratitude and forgiveness.
“This pandemic is like a tiger coming our way, a huge slow motion stressor that makes the experience of pain worse. Humor helps my patients relax and let go of the pain, ”she said.