I had the good fortune to be visiting Bondy on the day that the clowns had planned their meeting with The Interns. This is something that they do once a year, a month after the new intake of interns have started in the hospital (once they have settled in a little), to let them know about the hospital clown programme -the whys, the wherefores the dos and the don'ts.
What struck me the most was the authority that Lory and Patrick had - they have been working in this hospital for over 20 years and these interns started a month ago. Lory explained that one of the interns that they met with years ago is now one of the heads of service in the hospital. As far as being integrated members of the team goes, this initiative is really interesting - they get to them while they are young and establish themselves right away as valuable members of the team, tools in the box.
They do it at the end of their clowning day. As Lory says, if you are looked after as an artist, and fulfilled in your work, not everything has to be paid - we are not in this for the money, after all. It is just a part of the job they do. The clowns provided drinks and sweets (a gentle bribe!) and co-ordinated the meeting with the secretary to make sure it fitted with peoples schedules.
The meeting lasted just under an hour, with plenty of time for questions and general conversation at the end. Lory and Patrick briefly went over the history of the project, and the benefits and purpose of the work they do. They explained how they go about their day - why referrals are important, and what they might need to know, how to interact with them while they are wearing their red noses, how they can play a really important role as the 'straight person' in interactions with children. They are given an information pamphlet to take away and a red nose as a 'diploma'.
One of the interns asked how they approach interacting with children with Autism - she had been watching a visit with a young boy earlier in the day. It struck me that the clowns can play a really important role at this point in the life of a medical intern or student nurse - rounding out their experience in how to interact with children in hospital, giving ideas and ways-in that perhaps aren't covered on their regular curriculum.
Le Rire Medédin also offers workshops for medical staff in the hospitals where they work, 'Formation Ludo-Soignant' to help with, amongst other things, communication skills and the quality of interactions that medical staff have with the children they see.
I would love to have meetings like this - at the very least with student nurses in the hospitals we visit. It is so hard to communicate the finer points of what we are up to in a chance conversation in the corridor, and new medical staff are often so anxious to do the right thing and maintain their status, that interacting with us once we are in costume must seem like the last thing they want to do. A meeting might not change that, but at least they would have a better understanding of why we are there in the first place.
I am a therapeutic clown and performer. Writing here is part of my wider practice and maybe some of my thoughts will trigger some thoughts of your own and I hope that helps.