Dr Vimal Desai, consultant in emergency medicine at Hinchingbrooke Hospital talks to The Hunts Post about the importance of humour in difficult times.
Many of you will have recently seen President Donald Trump at a press briefing turn to his senior doctors to query whether disinfectants, either injected or consumed, could be used to eradicate coronavirus from the human body.
For clarification, as you will have no doubt taught your children at an early age, you should NEVER take disinfectant internally and yes, it is dangerous and could potentially kill you. On the back of this, many memes were created and shared poking fun at this rather unfortunate statement.
This raises the question – in this time of uncertainty, is it okay to laugh about what is a life-threatening situation?
On television, we have occasionally seen humour based around topics which could be viewed as bordering as controversial; for example, ‘Goodness Gracious Me’ used laughter to highlight the peculiarities within the Asian community whilst more recently, ‘The Last Leg’ has a section titled ‘Is it okay to…’ where the hosts review viewers’ queries on differing habits in people with disabilities. Those with a longer memory will remember a drama called ‘Cardiac Arrest’ where even medics were not left immune.
Research has revealed that people who are uptight and serious with an inability to see and enjoy humour are more prone to coronary heart disease, infections and some mental health diseases. There is even a recognised label for these type of people, being commonly referred to as having a type A personality. This therefore highlights the importance of sharing a laugh and appreciating a positive sense of humour.
Staff working in hospitals are no different and during handovers and huddles, after relaying vital information within the team, we will often lighten the mood by chatting about the funny side of life and current affairs.
As the pandemic started taking hold within the UK, there was understandably some anxiety amongst the junior doctors ans nurses, particularly with the news that was coming through from Italy and Spain.
More recently, there were fears relating to the number of healthcare staff who have been affected, some sadly losing their lives. There were also worries about whether we would have enough ventilators, the difficult decisions that we might have to face, the additional skills that we might have to utilise in a high-pressure environment and like everyone else, concerns about friends and families. Thanks to your efforts in stemming the level of infection transmission, some of these anxieties have been eased.
However, as our roles as senior staff have adapted to keep our colleagues positive, supported and motivated, humour has certainly helped (some of it rather dark!) as we all get through this; if you therefore end up in hospital and see the staff smiling and laughing, be rest assured that you are being cared for by a team who are happy, gelled and focused despite the difficulties that they might be facing.