Hart and Walton were writing generally about the pediatric patient, but their findings and research can easily be applied to the young and adolescent cancer patient.
It may seem silly to do tricks to make kids feel better, but the reasons (and science) behind it are strong. First, hospitals kind of suck. Not really a news flash for anyone, but it's important to remember how scary and lonely and weird they can be to a kid who also has this scary thing called "cancer" that makes her mom cry and her dad get all quiet.
Second, the goal is not simply to entertain. Hart and Walton are talking about using magic with actual therapeutic goals in mind: gaining trust, decreasing stress, and establishing a rapport. They cite a program called Open Heart Magic:
[It uses] the performance and teaching of close-up, interactive magic and humor as intervention strategies to promote coping. The emphasis is on interaction with patients and families rather than entertainment. Specific goals for the program are to (a) provide opportunities for choice and control, (b) foster social interaction, (c) enhance self-esteem and self confidence, (d) promote wellness through humor and laughter, (e) make the child feel a part of creating the magic, (f) empower the child, (g) stimulate the senses, and (h) promote feelings of mastery.
Third, the magicians are trained to interact with hospitalized children. Open Heart Magic takes its magicians through a 12-week training program taught by other therapeutic magicians and child life specialists. The magicians are taught how to read nonverbal cues and how to adapt to medical surroundings, as well as hospital etiquette and culture. Open Heart Magic then takes its magicians out into the field by hosting a community event, so they can practice their new skills. This provides them with direct experience before performing for children in a hospital. Finally, they are screened like any other hospital volunteer.
The science behind the magic
Hart and Walton offer a very in-depth review of the literature on the interaction and humor of magicians and sick children. They found:
Children accompanied by a clown or magician and a parent while waiting for surgery displayed remarkably less stress and anxiety than children with only a parent.
Patients who "work with a specially trained magician to learn simple magic tricks aimed [at helping] them achieve their motor, cognitive, perceptual, and/or mental health goals… have demonstrated increased concentration and improved motor, cognitive, and perceptual capabilities."
The magicians specifically incorporate two fundamental principles of comedy: surprise and self-deprecation. The psychosocial and physiological benefits this kind of humor offered to the patient include "reduced tension, improved circulation, muscle relaxation, and increased release of endorphins, T-cells, natural killer cells, and immunoglobulin."
Hart and Walton point out even though the evidence for the therapeutic value of the arts is growing, financial resources are shrinking -- and even the magicians can't fix that. However, since Open Heart Magic has provided such a cost-effective model for using "community-based resources to develop a highly skilled volunteer program," it may be worth the investment to see if this type of program can be started in your facility.
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The 2013 Nurse Compensation Survey Results Are In Michelle Bragazzi, BS, RN, 5/3/2013 32 In February, TheONC surveyed more than 600 oncology nurses to find out more about their careers. We wanted to know if they felt adequately compensated and satisfied within their ...
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