Interdisciplinary Conference of Healthcare Clowning in Vienna was a huge success

09.April 2018

Last Friday Red Nose Clowndoctors International colleagues, healthcare workers and medical experts were invited to the largest forum ever for healthcare-clowning. The Healthcare Clowning International Meeting (HCIM) 2018 was the largest conference ever over the topic of „Clowns in the healthcare system“. Discussions were among other things over the difference between the application of clown doctors, Clown intervention from the view of the patients, the role of clowns in society, the scientific study of healthcare clowning as well as the challenges and what hospital clown organizations must face in the future.  

The title of HCIM 2018 lived up to its name: THE ART OF CLOWNING – connecting culture, health and science: 400 participants from 50 countries met to give healthcare clowning a new dimension. Whether it was a clown, healthcare worker, doctor, advocate or patient himself, all in attendance were convinced of the need of clowning in healthcare and even more, in society as a whole. 

This response overwhelmed even the founder of the healthcare clown movement in the USA, Michael Christensen: “This here surpasses all of my expectations! I am so grateful and proud what our movement has become. This is only the beginning of something much larger, as humor can be beneficial for many areas outside the hospital setting.” 


The fact that clowns are increasingly becoming an integral part of hospitals and other medical facilities was demonstrated by the numerous presentations in which doctors and clown artists shared the podium to explain the experiences of their collaboration.

Dr. Peter Ahlburg, an anesthetist from Aarhus University Hospital, sees the clown doctors as colleagues, and he regularly consults them before an operation on a child patient “The psychological, emotional aspect is unfortunately to often neglected in hospital´s everyday life. Doctors and caregivers lack the time and also the know-how for it. This is all the more reason I am so grateful for my clown doctor colleagues, they help me, and allow me to focus more on my work, because they create a relaxed atmosphere which has a positive effect on everybody involved. 

What? Why? For what reason? 

The question of the impact is arguably the most frequently asked question for Healthcare-Clowning-Organizations. Donors, sponsors, institutions, the general public- they all would like to know clearly how sick people benefit from clown visitors. This is the reason why more and more organizations are entering this scientific field. Some results have been shared and presented to HCIM. 

It does not have to be a complicated design to prove the effects of clown doctors on sick children, proved numerous times from observations from the practice. 

“We have made an experience where the clown is a signal. Where clowns are, the place is not so sad. This thought helps the kids and all of their parents as well. Furthermore, we have observed that the young patients recover faster from operations, when they were allowed to have a clown visit”, reports Dr. Peter Ahlburg, an anesthetist from Aarhus University Hospital. 

And also the impressive Key-Note from a former patient impressively illustrates the effect of clowns in hospitals: 

“I stopped counting how many times I was in the hospital when I was a kid. The Red Nose Clowndoctors made sure that I had a good experience. I didn´t know what day it was, but I was always waiting for Thursday because that’s when the clowns came. I cannot put it into words, it is a feeling… the Red Noses have helped me so much, to endure all the pain and adversity and to be able to stand here today. I thank them wholeheartedly.” , explained Florian Meier, ex-patient from orthopedic hospital Speising in Vienna. 

Clowns as a connection

The demand to implement clowns in health care became more and more apparent in the conference.  Many other organizations shared their positive experiences in other areas and called for the power of humor to continue to be used, e.g.:

  • In schools
  • In coping with trauma 
  • In areas of crisis, slums or after natural disasters and much more

“With this conference we have strengthened the awareness for the necessary and positive impact of clowning in the health care system. The active interest at HCIM 2018 shows us, that the need for humor interventions continues to increase and shows us which challenges we as organizations encounter.” , concluded Monica Culen, founder and chief executive of RED NOSES International.