The first panel was made up of directors of various Healthcare Clown networks:
- Federazione Nazionale Clown Dottori, Italy
- European Federation of Hospital Clown Organizations (EFHCO)
- Féderation Française des Associations de Clowns Hospitaliers, France
- Therapeutic Clown Canada
- Palacos em Rede, Brazil
There were differences within the remit of these networks, but a few things stood out to me as universal:
To make sure that hospitals can expect the best clowns in hospital, just as they can expect the best Healthcare Professionals.
For us to obtain recognition of Healthcare Clowning as a profession.
To differentiate ourselves from other social healthcare activities.
While in this inclusive place of open conversation, it occurred to be immediately that I am not a diplomat. I found it so difficult to step back from the idea that our way is the right way. My jaw clenches, my stomach tightens. Non-professionals? Non-artist lead organisations? No quality artistic training?! Well-meaning volunteers putting on a red nose inspired by Patch Adams?!! NO! It felt confusing to be at once surrounded by like-minded artists, and (I might as well be honest), some people who I felt give our profession a bad name.
I LOVE clowns, I HATE clowns, I LOVE clowns...talk about emotional roller-coaster.
When we are trying so hard to gain recognition for the work that we do, it is easy to dismiss those who chose to do it differently. And of course, no-body wants to do a bad job. We are all there to serve the client. Could it be that my attitude is a little arrogant?!
So these networks are engaging with this conversation head-on. They open a dialogue with new organisations inspired to do the work and define ways of working and collaborating, so that we can still try to ensure high quality work. And they seem to be doing so with a great deal of diplomacy and openness.
Magdalena Shamberger (CEO of Hearts and Minds) is also Vice-Chair of EFHCO and gave some insight into the hard work, frustration and difficulty involved in creating these networks. I feel heartened that this work is being done. It feels good to be part of an organisation with an EFCHO stamp of approval, and to have this quality label. We of course, as individuals, need to make sure that we are living up to this in each interaction we have on the floor (otherwise, what's the point?), and in the meantime EFHCO will continue to push for this label to be recognised by the Healthcare Community as well as the Hospital Clown Community. Thank goodness for diplomatic people!
Next up - Working with Teenagers. Yes!