Humor has the power to heal at every level, yet if you ask most physicians or recruiters to think of one word to describe a hospital they probably won’t say, “humorous.” Laughter is a powerful antidote for pain, stress, and even conflict, though. In fact, nothing works faster at bringing balance to your mind and body than laughter.
So, because April is Humor in Medicine month, we think it’s the perfect time to lighten up a bit and talk about the profound effect humor and laughter can have on doctors and their patients – and even your recruitment efforts. You don’t have to be the stand-up comedian/recruiter, and every doctor doesn’t have to be the reigning Hawkeye Pierce from MASH. Developing and showing your sense of humor can strengthen your relationships and make life a little easier to bear. Laughing also has the power to heal and renew and is a great resource for overcoming problems.
The Mayo Clinic says the short-term effects of laughter include the release of endorphins, your natural stress relief hormone, as well as activating and relieving your body's stress response. A great sense of humor obviously won’t cure all ailments, but there’s a lot more data that proves there are a lot of positives about laughter, including stimulating your organs, activating and relieving your stress responses, and soothing tension. Laughter can give you a quick pick-me-up, and in the long term it can improve your immune system and even relieve pain – all because laughter causes the body to release its own painkillers.
Humor, by definition, is a tool that helps us cope and get through our tougher days. It’s only natural, then, that humor can improve a patient’s outlook and even her or her outcome. One of the great examples of using therapeutic humor was practiced by Hunter Eoherty “Patch” Adams, MD, one of the best-known physicians who used humor in healing. He also founded the Gesundheit Institute GGO, whose mission is to enrich the lives of people living in communities torn by sickness. The institute even carries out clowning missions around the world!
The approach proposed GCO plays a key role in some of the most acute healthcare settings. One research team spent nearly 300 hours interviewing and observing staff, patients and their families. One interviewee observed, “When you’ve had the most stressful day and you’re ready to cry, sometimes it’s easier to bring out humor and take it in the other direction instead of bawling on somebody’s shoulder.”
The school of therapeutic humor has found that a light-hearted interaction really works – it also confirms that humor can bring healthcare teams together! When applied effectively, therapeutic humor can strengthen the patients’ immune system and, because humor minimizes their anxiety, it can help patients reframe their illness or treatment. Evelyn Lai, a pediatric nurse practitioner, writes about the complex nature of smiles in an Op-Med titled Your Patient’s Smile Can Tell You A Lot: “I sometimes think of my work in Pediatrics as trying to uncover smiles in moments of chaos.”
Laughter is also contagious. You’re more likely to laugh when other people are around, and the more laughter you have in your own life, the more you’re likely to share. That doesn’t mean you have to crack jokes all the time, but laughter is engaging – especially when you are engaged. Try to keep this in mind when having conversations with candidates. Perhaps you can even connect face to face if your locations allow it. Shared laughter is one of the most effective ways for keeping relationships (including work relationships) fresh. Even if you don’t always agree with a candidate, sharing something that makes both of you laugh will do your relationship good.
Obviously, there’s a time and a place for humor and even laughter in medicine and physician recruiting. You don’t have to share a gut-busting laugh to smooth over a rough day or awkward exchange. A simple smile can do it. Have you ever passed a stranger who smiled at you? You probably had a hard time NOT smiling back. So, go ahead and crack a smile or a joke. Find a way to laugh about your own situation and watch your stress start to fade away. You could even try practicing a laugh once in a while. Laughter really does do a body good.
Over 70% of all U.S. doctors are on the Doximity platform, so it's a great place to start making those connections with candidates. To learn more about social physician recruiting, check out this social recruiting guidebook.