Say “HAHA!”: Is Laughter the Best Medicine?

On hearing that Funny Women were invited to a seminar by Dr May McCreaddie regarding the use of humour in healthcare interactions, I jumped at the chance to attend. Held at Brunel University, where I am reading for a degree, I knew instantly, this was not to be missed.

Dr McCreaddie opened the seminar with a quip about coming down to "Britain from Scotland" and the laughter that ensued suggested she had already captivated the audience. The talk covered different theories relating to humour types (superiority, incongruity, release) with Dr McCreaddie using photographs of her rabbits to demonstrate the interpretation of humour in different contexts. The photographs included one of her rabbits ‘reading’ a book on bunny suicides, with the incongruous humour used within the photograph, complementing the section about humour theories and when they are used.

In one example, McCreaddie displayed an excerpt from an interaction between two Clinical Nurse Specialists and a distrustful patient, who was known to be a drug user to the nurses. The nurses’ humour was evidently used as a placation technique for the patient and demonstrated the way in which blurring of the lines between those in positions of authority and their subordinates can assist with the formation of strong relationships.

The delivery of the concepts, which had been broken down in to bite size chunks was excellent and I found myself thinking about why humour is used in every day life, let alone healthcare interactions. The conclusions of McCreaddie’s study matched my own belief that humour can be primarily used to package concern. The notion that making a joke about a matter of concern makes it easier to digest is often used without thought.

Issues of concern were raised at the end of the seminar by members of the audience, with regards to whether humour in healthcare can be perceived as lack of professionalism; however, as McCreaddie pointed out, humour can show confidence in ability, if used correctly. This can be adapted to almost any situation. I know, I’d rather have a giggle with a nurse than observe a panic-stricken expression etched on the face of the person in charge of my care.

So the next time you find yourself in the unfortunate position of having to attend Accident & Emergency, a one-liner regarding your apparently endless wait to be seen may just get your concern noticed.

Shari Goldman