Medical clowning is now a qualified degree in New Zealand with professional “care clown” Dr Thomas Petschner leading the way.
Medical clowning is now a qualified degree in New Zealand with professional "care clown" Dr Thomas Petschner leading the way.
Kiwis who believe in the power of laughter as the best medicine will have the chance to earn a degree in medical clowning. New Zealand's first medical clowning is scheduled to be launched on Dec 2013.
New Zealanders and those who are considering a career as a professional clowner can earn a certificate, diploma or full Bachelor of Arts in Medical Clowning. Dr Petschner brought the qualification to the country from Berlin's Steinbeis University.
The International Institute for Medical Clowning in the German university is the first of its kind in the world with 240 students currently enrolled to study the art of medical clowning. Mr Petschner believes that the medical clowning profession was "just exploding" with 600 students already signed up for 2014. The tally includes 20 New Zealanders.
In 2009, Mr Petschner established Clown Doctors New Zealand. He has trained and sent "clown doctors" to hospitals in Christchurch for more than four years.
Rita Noetzel, managing director of Clown Doctors, said she hoped the medical clowning certification will raise the credibility of medical clowning as a profession in New Zealand. She said clown doctors are not recognised as a valued occupation and profession in the country, unlike in other countries in Europe.
Ms Noetzel said medical clowns are well-educated and trained to work with sick children and help vulnerable families. She said medical clowns are different from those people usually see in kids' birthday parties since they deal with the sick and use their gift of humour to heal.
Students who will enroll in medical clowning will be studying health science, psychology, performing arts and practical clowning techniques.
Child Services Manager Anne Morgan at the Christchurch hospital said that the presence of clown doctors in the ward has made a "tangible difference." Clown doctors help sick children relax, thereby reducing stress and anxiety. By making patients laugh, clown doctors aid in their treatment that helps them recover.
Ms Noetzel also pointed out that it is not only the children who benefit from medical clowning. Family and staff also get to join in the fun and laugh. Like Robin William's character in the movie Patch Adams, clown doctors have become valuable in hospital services in Christchurch.
Meanwhile, clown doctors in Australia will meet in Tasmania for an annual conference to compare, share and perfect medical clowning as a profession. Workshops will be all about magic, music,, slapstick comedy and other more serious topics to help them work with the sick.
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