Disaster zones—should we be clowning around?


Medical clowns have an important role in helping patients cope with their pain and distress. This is especially true in the pediatric population. However, their activity in a disaster area is unheard of. Following the Nepal earthquake in 2015, the Israeli field hospital set up in Kathmandu, Nepal was joined by five volunteer medical clowns. They were active in all parts of the field hospital. Following the hospital’s activity, an online questionnaire was sent to the field hospital members to assess the impact of medical clowning on the hospital in general and its members’ individual performance. Physicians and nurses found that medical clowning had a positive impact both generally and personally. (65.4 and 78.3% respectively on general impact.) Personnel that were not previously exposed to medical clowning also found them to have a positive impact; however, they were less likely to view it as impacting their personal performance.

Conclusion: Medical teams in disaster areas may benefit from the presence of medical clowns.

What is known about this topic:
Medical clowns are used for alleviation and distraction in painful and distressful medical procedures and treatments. Its positive effect on patients, and their families are well established.
What this study adds:
This is the first description of medical clowning in a disaster area. In addition, the impact of medical clowning on the medical staff working in a disaster area is evaluated. No previous studies have explored the impact of medical clowns on the medical staff.

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Field medicine team


Israel field hospital


Medical clowns


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We wish to thank the entire IFH team for their tireless effort to help all those in need, the Nepali people for their courage and kind hospitality, and the medical clowns who volunteered to join such a noble cause.

Author information




UI- designed the study and the questionnaire and help drafting the manuscript.

SM- designed the online questionnaire and helped drafting the final manuscript.

AD- analyzed the collected data and critically reviewed the manuscript.

GW- designed the study and the questionnaire. Drafted the manuscript through its final draft.

All of the authors critically reviewed the manuscript and took responsibility for the final draft.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Giora Weiser.

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The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Studies with human participants or animals

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

Additional information

Communicated by Mario Bianchetti

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Ilan, U., Davidov, A., Mendlovic, J. et al. Disaster zones—should we be clowning around?. Eur J Pediatr 177, 247–249 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00431-017-3018-5

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  • Disaster
  • Medical clown
  • Pain
  • Children