If this were a friend or colleague, I would laugh easily. But this is a patient I barely know. He has bipolar disorder, a previous suicide attempt and a history of bizarre, impulsive behavior. In the context, his joke just feels inappropriate and overly familiar...I quickly glance around to take stock of the room. The nursing assistant laughs and the anesthesiologist grins broadly. The attending psychiatrist remains stone-faced and says, "Clearly he's improving.""Laughter is always the best medicine" may be a familiar cliche, but that does not necessarily transfer into advice one can take into the trenches in every case. As a future clinician I always find these personal narratives about patient care fascinating. Maybe Dr. Brody should just play this for all his patients.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Is laughter the best medicine?
When is it ok to laugh? I remember everyone asking this question right after 9/11. When would it be ok for the late-night television joke-writers go back to work? In today's Science Times a psychiatry resident writes thoughtfully about the use of humor with patients.