And like us at Hearts and Minds, O.N.V clowns follow the same routine every visit, so that each ward knows when to expect them, and they only ever visit authorised wards and hospital spaces.
Unlike us, they get their referrals once they are in costume (noses off). This is made more possible by the fact that the nurses station is a separate room, off the ward, so they can do this without risk of being spied by one of the children on the ward. But it also saves them time, as the wards are so spread out, they feel a separate referral process would take too much time out of the day. The referrals are always given by the Nurse in Charge.
I found it interesting that after referrals, where they might be told that a child they know had died (this happened yesterday) or any number of other things about the children they are about to visit, the clowns pop their noses on and head off onto the ward. I realised that I rely on the process of changing into costume after referrals - warming-up, having time for information to sink in (sometimes this is just that we might have been referred to lots of teenagers or babies, and this has a baring on the artistic focus for the day) switching into Clown - before heading out onto the floor. I suppose we each get used to the rhythm of our day. The O.N.V way of doing things certainly seems to work well for them – they went on to have a lovely morning, full of giggles.
The Clowndoctors eat their lunch in the staff canteen in costume (noses off!). This is another way they can be visible as professionals, doing their job, having a break. At one point a nurse came over to say hello with a huge smile on her face. When she left, Fernando said he had never met her before.
And when they and walk outside along the road to their next ward, they share a joke with the ambulance drivers as they pass by and with various Doctors and Nurses as they go to and fro.
I was accompanied on my visit by Flávia Diab, whose full-time role is Hospital Relations. She is the link between The Artists, The Hospitals and The O.N.V office. More on that to come!