Sensitivity Training for Pediatric Nursing Students: The Clown Workshop

Wednesday, 14 July 2010: 8:50 AM

Betty L. Leef, MSN, BSN, RN
Undergraduate Department, New York University College of Nursing, New York City, NY
Donna M. Hallas, PhD, PNP-BC, CPNP
College of Nursing, New York University, New York City, NY

Learning Objective 1: describe sensitivity training through a clown workshop to enhance the communication skills of undergraduate nursing students.

Learning Objective 2: describe the benefits of using humor and empathy to establish strong interpersonal relationships between nurses and their pediatric patients.

Purpose: Development of communication skills is a critical goal in undergraduate nursing education. To accomplish this goal, collaboration between nursing faculty and the Big Apple Circus (BAC) artistic director was initiated to present a sensitivity training “clown” workshop for pediatric nursing students. The theoretical framework for this study was based on the positive correlation between humor, empathy, and interpersonal trust between nurses and their patients (Hampes, 2001).

Methods: Institutional Review Board approval was obtained from the university prior to conducting the workshops.  During each workshop, students participated in cognitive and perceptual exercises which included games and sensitivity training activities designed to increase their peripheral awareness; their ability to read a room; and their interpretation of nonverbal communication. There were 131 participants divided into small groups of 16 to 18 each. Each student attended one 3-hour workshop during the fall 2008.  At the end of each workshop, each student completed an evaluation form which did not contain any personal identifying data.

Results: The evaluations from this sensitivity training “clown” workshop revealed that 99% of the students rated the training as excellent in all areas including: techniques to diffuse stress among children and families; understanding the value of engagement to increase compliance; assessment of the tone and mood of the child and their environment; increase in peripheral awareness.

Conclusion: This sensitivity training “clown” workshop conducted in collaboration between nursing faculty and the BAC artistic director showed the students that nurses must be critically aware of their patient’s environment and the multifaceted methods of communication to establish a meaningful nurse patient interpersonal relationship. The students learned that laughter is both a powerful healer, contagious, and globally relevant in the care of the pediatric patient!

Hampes, W.P. (2001). Relation between humor and empathetic concern. Psychological Reports, 88, 241-244.