Using Laughter at Work as a Nurse

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We’ve been hearing that laughter is the best medicine for years and, for many of us, since we were kids. Of course, as a nurse, you know laughter is not a cure for disease and that medicine is necessary to heal, or alleviate symptoms of, certain illnesses.

However, did you know that laughter can play an important role in your relationship with your patients? Using humor in your work with patients can be beneficial for your patients and, perhaps unexpectedly, for you and your colleagues as well.

How Laughter Can Benefit Your Patients

When you use humor in your work with patients, it can be very useful in helping patients to cope better and to feel more comfortable, safe and secure.

Studies show that laughter has numerous benefits, including:

  • Relieving physical tensions
  • Releasing endorphins that decrease pain
  • Reducing stress hormones
  • Boosting the immune system
  • Improving stamina
  • Strengthening breathing
  • Reducing depression or anxiety
  • Improving mental clarify
  • Offering a momentary distraction
  • Improve coping skills
  • Promoting a sense of well-being
  • Improving blood vessel flow and reducing blood pressure
  • Relaxing muscles and easing digestion
  • Boosting oxygen levels to the brain and circulatory system

To further support some of the benefits listed above, research in psychoneuroimmunology shows that laughter and positive emotions enhance the immune and respiratory systems and that a good sense of humor contributes to heart health. It is known to be a tool that can help people relax, lessen fears and anxieties and feel better.

Nurses who use humor on the job often foster more trusting and collaborative relationships with their patients and encourage patients to open up more because their patients feel seen and heard. It makes the entire medical experience a lot more personal, adding great value to patient care and helping to increase overall patient satisfaction.

The Right Time

Of course, while it’s okay to use humor with your patients, it’s critical to understand when and how to use it, as well as what kinds of humor should never be used.

In an article on DailyNurse, Alicia Schwartz, MSN, PCC, CCM, RN, suggests starting to incorporate humor by first listening to your patients and carefully observing them to better judge what may or not go over well. Schwartz prefers using situational humor based on what is happening in the moment, rather than telling jokes to try to get patients to laugh.

It goes without saying that humor that is ill-natured, at someone else’s expense, contains profanity or involves religion, politics, race, culture or sex should never be used.

In the same article, Maia Aziz, PSW, CLYL, CHP, states that “laughter should always be with the patients – never at them or about the seriousness of their conditions. This can be a delicate point. Patients might make jokes themselves about their condition (insider humor) that are not appropriate for others to make.”

Laughter as Medicine in General

Using laughter at work can greatly benefit you as well. Laughter has been shown to be helpful for people in general, not just those who are sick. In addition to all the previous benefits discussed, it can unite people going through difficult times, heal feelings of loss and resentment, alleviate anger and help people to become more resilient.

Since laughter, like a smile, is a universal language, it can also improve social interactions by establishing stronger bonds and relieving tensions.

While we often think of laughter as resulting from telling jokes, it can be naturally brought about in other ways. If you’re not sure how to inject some laughter into your own life, try some of these ideas:

  • Listening to recorded laughter
  • Watching a funny video or movie
  • Observing children play
  • Reading a funny story or comic

As you can see, research shows that laughter provides many health benefits, both physically and emotionally. And it’s free and easy to use, so why not give it a try? You might not only lift a patient’s mood, but you might just brighten your day as well.

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