Aoife’s Clown Doctors are based on the original Patch Adams, a doctor who found humour to be an integral part of children’s wellbeing in hospital.
Today our clown doctors are professional actors trained to work in healthcare settings. We currently carry out our clown rounds in CHI Crumlin, CHI Temple Street and University Hospital Galway. We have also visited LauraLynn Children’s Hospice.
Aoife’s Clown Doctors interact with and entertain child patients in paediatric settings. The clown doctors liaise with play specialists and medical staff on the children’s wards.
We provide professional clowning entertainment to children in Ireland’s hospital wards, to momentarily offer an escape from the stress and anxiety of the hospital setting for all family members, through laughter and games.
The Clown Doctors under the Humour Foundation commenced in Temple Street and Crumlin Hospitals in 2005. Aoife Hendrick was a patient in Crumlin Hospital in the summer of 2012 after being diagnosed with Leukaemia. She loved the Clown Doctors and her parents were delighted to see her so happy during these special visits.
When the Humour Foundation left Ireland in 2013 due to the recession and funding difficulties, Aoife’s family began fundraising so that the legacy of their bright, bubbly little girl could live on through the smiles and laughter of other children. The clown rounds restarted in 2014. Aoife’s Clown Doctors Ireland became a Registered Charity in 2019 and are continuing to expand the programme nationwide.
The Clown Doctors use their specialist performance skills, measured humour, and fun to support patients with empathy and sensitivity. They help the children, their families, and at times the hospital staff to cope with hospitalisation and the stress that goes with it.
The Clown Doctors use their improvisation skills to adapt to each bedside situation. They dress in white coats embellished with character descriptors such as Dr Ditzy, Dr Funnybones and Dr Coolio. Some wear wigs and others wear a red nose.
Each ‘clown round’ consists of two clown doctors working together for two hours. They go from bed to bed and room to room visiting child patients. They liaise with the medical staff and are informed about which children may or may not be up for a visit on that particular day. Teenagers sometimes take a while to warm up and the clowns usually have them smiling eventually!
“Humour is a communication device specifically designed to elicit joy and happiness and is effective in relieving anxiety and stress and enhances communication in medical settings” – M. Cohen 2001
Aoife’s Clown Doctors visit CHI Temple Street and CHI Crumlin each week. We also carry out clown rounds on St Bernadette’s paediatric ward in University Hospital Galway.
In 2023, we have recruited more actors to allow us to expand our programme to the paediatric wards of Mayo General Hospital and Portiuncula University Hospital in County Galway later this year. We will also be increasing the frequency of clown rounds in CHI Crumlin to twice a week to cover other wards.
The clown doctors have materials to distribute to the children specially created for Aoife’s Clown Doctors, namely colouring books and stickers which they distribute to the children they meet.
The Aoife’s Clown Doctor programme is continuously evaluated via feedback from the children, their parents and the play specialists.
Parental feedback and the observations of hospital staff have assisted us in constantly evaluating our programme. We receive regular comments on our social media platforms and via email.
From Alice, Callum’s mother:
‘For us, our first encounter with the Clown Doctors was a ray of light in the darkness that was a newly diagnosed child and trying to navigate the complicated world of treatments and medications. We had been transported by ambulance to Crumlin Children’s Hospital from Cork. Our roller coaster began here! Alarmed, apprehensive and terrified by it all, the Clown Doctors gave us all especially Callum a welcomed break from all things medical.
It was the first time we had seen him smile and chuckle in Crumlin since his treatment had commenced. These clowns burst through the door into our sterile room fighting about who took a slide for their hair! Immediately Callum was engaged as he had become so fed up of any adult asking him questions and prodding him for blood samples. His eyes widened and he was totally in awe of these hilariously funny clowns who entertained us all! We relished every single bit of the act and even joined in a song with them! It was a glimmer of the life we had to leave for a while.
I will always remember how they made my little lost boy smile and will be forever grateful for that, at an unbelievably emotional time! Aoife’s Clown Doctors are amazing and I hope they will bring many more welcome smiles to the children who need them so so badly in hospital.’
Tracey Wall, A/Chief Director of Nursing in CHI Crumlin in 2022, wrote to thank the team at Aoife’s Clown Doctors for their work over the years: ‘During this time thousands of children and their families – not forgetting staff – have had their day brightened by the Clown Doctors who have brought smiles to us in the middle of all the pressures and busyness of the hospital ward. We are very grateful to them for making this possible.’
The findings from a 2020 study in the British Medical Journal, ‘Effectiveness of hospital clowns for symptom management in paediatrics: systematic review of randomised and non-randomised controlled trials’ suggest that the presence of hospital clowns during medical procedures, induction of anaesthesia in the preoperative room, and as part of routine care for chronic conditions, might be a beneficial strategy to manage some symptom clusters. Furthermore, hospital clowns might help to improve psychological wellbeing in admitted children and adolescents with acute and chronic disorders, compared with those who received only standard care (BMJ 2020;371:m4290).
Documentation and Dissemination
The following video contains RTÉ footage from a clown round in CHI Crumlin in 2018 along with interviews from affected families and Aoife’s parents. It highlights the work and value of our programme.
Children’s Health Ireland Saolta University Health Care Group
Date of Publication
2005-2013: Clown Doctor’s under the Humour Foundation. 2014-present: Aoife’s Clown Doctors (registered charity since 2019).