Hospitalised children can feel frightened, lonely, bored or confused; as well as coping with illness they are in a new place, away from home, which is filled with unknown people, medical equipment and sometimes distressing sights which healthy children do not have to experience.
Families of patients can also be affected, and while the medical needs of the child are being given top priority they also need some attention of a non-medical kind. Benefits for the patients include:
Improvement in mood and
lowering of stress levels
Distraction from illness
Relief of boredom and loneliness
The Clown Doctors work with children from birth to 18 years and within a wide range of medical departments wherever there are young people. Activities are age-specific and ability-specific so each child has their own unique experience with the Clown Doctors.
Play Specialists and Nursery Nurses based within the paediatric wards refer individual children to the Clown Doctors, supplying basic information about the child's age, interests, medical condition and reasons for the referral. Some long-term children may be referred to the Clown Doctors on a regular basis during their stay. A visit from the Clown Doctors, who work in pairs, will normally last about 20 minutes and any successes or developments arising from the visit are fed back to the health care staff to form part of the child's overall recovery care plan. The child's wellbeing is central to the play and informs each visit from the Clown Doctors.
Since 2007, The Clown Doctors have been working in two hospitals in Newcastle upon Tyne. In previous years they have also delivered in other hospitals across the north east region.
The GNCH at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle is one of only 14 major children's medical centres in the UK, providing a full range of children's health services to young people not only from the north east but from across the UK and even further afield. The Clown Doctors visit the GNCH half a day per week on a Thursday and over the course of a year, rotate which wards they visit.
The work in the GNCH is supported by The Children's Foundation.
The Children's Heart Unit at The Freeman Hospital is one of only two centres in the UK offering paediatric heart transplants and the unit now provides almost half of the UK's paediatric transplants. The Clown Doctors visit the unit on a weekly basis, with a half day on a Monday and a full day on a Tuesday. Time is spent with children on the ward, those in the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit, PICU, and those attending their regular outpatient appointments in clinic. Often The Clown Doctors will have seen children grow and recover over the course of many months/years and can be part of their journey for instance, from pre-transplantation right through to full health again.
The work in the Children's Heart Unit is supported by CHUF.