Doctors and caregivers who are sensitive to patients’ “funny bones” might be able to build stronger relationships and deliver better care. That was the message delivered by Dr. David Sharp, complete with plenty of jokes, at a recent LaughFest talk, part of the festival’s LaughteRx series. Sharp explained that humor and laughter can:
- Narrow the gaps between health professionals and their patients.
- Be a way for patients to introduce problems that they are somewhat uncomfortable bringing up directly.
- Make significant reductions in pain and suffering.
- Increase patient satisfaction with visits.
He’s not advocating for medical professionals to deliver a comedy routine every time they see a patient, but rather, to use humor as a way to soften sometimes difficult conversations. In practice, he advised that listening to a patient and being perceptive to their attitude and receptiveness to humor should always be taken into account. If they seem open to lighthearted banter, go for it, but be ready to apologize if the situation is misread. “The most important thing is your attitude,” he said. Research about the connection between body, mind and spirit continues to grow, Sharp pointed out, with plenty of evidence to support the healing qualities of laughter, including these points:
- As little as 15 minutes a day of laughter can increase pain tolerance by 10 percent.
- Laughter releases endorphins, which interact with opiate receptors in the brain, spinal cord and digestive tract to reduce pain perception.
- An atmosphere of humor in hospitals results in better patient care, reduced anesthesia/operating times and shorter hospital stays.
He cautions that cultural differences or cognitive impairments might mean some humor gets lost in translation. Ethnic and sexist humor should always be avoided and most tend to find sarcasm offensive. Humor should never be forced on patients and staff should be careful to not be too merry to avoid misunderstandings the patient might have about being laughed at. “What’s funny to one person can insult someone else,” he said. If you enjoyed this post, you might also like:
- Did You Hear the One About Laughter Being Good for Your Health?
- Behind LaughFest
- How LaughFest Comedian Found Humor in Life with Tourette Syndrome
Photo credit: Simon Johansson