An investigation into community psychiatric nurses' use of humour during client interactions


  • John Struthers RMN RGN DipN RNT BA(Hons) MN

    1. 1 Nurse Teacher, Isle of Man Centre for Nurse Education, 4 th Floor, Hillary House, Prospect Hill, Douglas IM1 1EQ, Isle of Man
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An investigation into community psychiatric nurses' use of humour during client interactions

Community psychiatric nurses' (CPNs') accounts of interactions with clients often reflect benefits of using humour appropriately. This is despite the use of humour as a specific therapeutic form of communication generally being ignored during CPNs' professional development. With the growth in community care, mental health nurses are required to function more autonomously within the client's home environment, thus the contextual nature of the nurse's use of humour may have to be adjusted accordingly. How nurses makes this adjustment of their use of humour appears to be left to their own experiences. Yet inappropriate use of humour may be costly to the nurse–client relationship. The research described in this paper used a descriptive qualitative methodology to explore the perceptions of seven CPNs working in Scotland in relation to their use of humour during client interactions. As this study did not specifically access clients, ethical permission was not required from the local research and ethics committee. This did not excuse the author from recognizing ethical considerations of the subjects in relation to sharing information about being volunteers, their rights of withdrawal and the risks and benefits of the study. Confidentiality and anonymity were also maintained by the use of pseudonyms. Data collected through critical incident analysis and interviews were subjected to content analysis. Findings confirm the paradoxical nature of humour. Humour, when used appropriately, assisted the development of trust and changing the client's restrictive perceptions. Damaging effects were reported, however, if the humour was misinterpreted or perceived by the client as demeaning their experience. Although the CPNs had not received any formal education about the use of humour, recommendations centred on raising student nurses' and CPNs' awareness about their own use of humour.