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2017 Magnet - Humor - When/How to Use?

  1. Humor invokes a positive attitude and can unite nurses in practice. Get energized as you explore the unique sense of humor that all nurses share and how you can use it as a coping mechanism in your workplace.

    2017 Magnet - Humor - When/How to Use?

    Humor is an often-neglected emotion in nursing. We are all so very busy, rushing here and there and trying to get the impossible done in the shortest time possible. However, here is some comic relief for our hectic lives.

    As nurses, we are exposed to both the best and worst of heath care situations. Few professions have more impact on people who are often experiencing the worst day or hour of their life. We have been entrusted with the responsibility as soon as we passed our licensing exam. We know that having a sense of humor extends our lives. Laughter really is the best medicine. There's even been research conducted on nursing humor. For instance, a 1997 study published in the International Journal of Nursing Studies wanted to describe the meaning of nurses' use of humor in their nursing practice. Five themes emerged in which humor was found to:
    • Help nurses deal effectively with difficult situations and difficult patients
    • Create a sense of cohesiveness between nurses and their patients and also among the nurses themselves
    • Be an effective therapeutic communication technique that helped to decrease patients' anxiety, depression, and embarrassment
    • Be planned and routine or be unexpected and spontaneous
    • Creates lasting effects beyond the immediate moment for both nurses and patients.

    AN realizes that nurses need humor in their lives. Check out our forum; Nursing Humor. AN staff was recently at the ANA Magnet Conference in Houston and were fortunate to attend a lecture on....humor!

    Johns Hopkins Magazine emphasizes the need for therapeutic humor: "Therapeutic humor doesn't mean laying a string of one-liners on an unsuspecting patient, or teasing her or using sarcasm. It's about tuning in to the ways a patient views her situation and following her lead if she takes a turn toward the lighthearted. Just as a patient and provider might connect over a shared interest in baseball or a favorite movie, humor provides another avenue toward the common ground that generates trust between individuals. It can also offer a step back from a difficult situation, a reminder that life can still be larger than fear and pain alone."

    Sometimes humor is also a coping mechanism. I have a friend recently diagnosed with cancer who underwent major surgery but faces years of follow up and a 25% chance of recurrence. She is not an ideal patient and copes via the use of humor and sarcasm. For her and many others like her, these coping mechanisms are what gets her thru trying times.
    Humor can work wonders in staff situations also. How many times have we all been involved in very stressful situations and we can engage in humor and even laughter with our co-workers. This shared experience can lead to increased cohesiveness of the relationship as well as increased job satisfaction.

    Humor can be helpful in many situations. However, there must be a set of "rules" or "guidelines" to ensure that humor is well-received:
    • Timing - although humor can be used in very serious situations, it is always important to remember the patient and others that may have different emotions
    • "Gallows humor" - as healthcare workers we are in a position of authority and have a mastery of the situation. Patients are vulnerable and sometimes must be protected from our humor
    • Scope - our work world is so hectic, we all know this, so its important that if humor is deployed, there is enough time for the other person to answer or absorb the humor

    So, humor can be used in the clinical setting, provided you use common sense rules. There are many instances where humor can defuse a potentially flammable situation. Humor can also be used to decrease tension between staff members during a stressful event.

    The ANA agrees via American Nurse Today: "Humor should lift the spirit and make everyone feel more comfortable. In other words, we should laugh with, rather than laugh at, our coworkers. Avoid sarcasm because it can be misunderstood and often targets others in a negative way."
    Humor is good -
    Last edit by Joe V on Jun 15, '18
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  3. by   Elfriede
    Humor is a good way to get a patient relaxed. I prefer jokes about myself. My BMI is about 15. And if I tell the patient, that I have to watch on my waistline ---
    The injektion is done, befor he even noticed.
  4. by   Ruby Vee
    You don't even have to share humor for it to work its magic. I've gotten through many a miserable assignment, horrible shift or painful hospital experience just by imagining what a great story it will be at some future date. Seriously. Even the 27 mammograms before my lumpectomy, the time my patient eloped with his PCA and telemetry box, the time I accidentally dislocated the intern's shoulder (OK, that one took a long time to be funny) or the time six nursing students watched me give an IM injection right through the web between my thumb and index finger -- all are funny stories now because I made the effort to look at them as humorous rather than horrible.