The hospital is a breeding ground for two things: germs and anxiety. The former can be solved with good cleaning rituals and preventative gear, like a face mask. The latter can be aided with humor, according to a new study published in the Journal of PeriAnesthesia Nursing. The study examined parent-child pairs' preoperative anxieties to see if they could be reduced with humor. The results showed that just by implementing a small change to hospital conduct, the parent-child pairs had reduced anxiety scores, which made the operations go smoother. This new information could change the way hospitals attempt to heal patients.

The Relationship between Humor and Preoperative Anxiety

Participants were divided into two groups: one which received normal care without any additional treatment (29 child/parent pairs) and one which received normal care and a “Wacky Wednesday" treatment (13 pairs). Envisioned by a mother who had lost her daughter to cancer, the Wacky Wednesday treatment consisted of medical staff wearing pieces of costumes and one costumed personnel going from room to room, visiting with children and parents, and giving them costume items and toys.

Anxiety levels were measured on a 0 to 100 horizontal scale, with 0 signifying no anxiousness and 100 signifying extreme anxiousness. The patient and parent's heart rate and blood pressure scored were also recorded.

The Result: Wackiness Reduces Anxiety

Both children and parents who were in the Wacky Wednesday treatment groups had significantly lower levels of anxiety than those in the control group. However, there wasn't a difference in heart rate or blood pressure between the two groups. Both parents and children had positive reviews of the Wacky Wednesday treatment. Parents and children also appeared more at ease before and after the operation if they received the Wacky Wednesday treatment.

What it Means for Treatment at Hospitals

Undergoing surgery is a particularly traumatic experience for all patients. This is especially true of children and parent pairs. If implemented, Wacky Wednesday treatment plans could reduce anxiety levels for children and parents before and after an operation, which would make recovery easier and improve patients' overall hospital experiences.

Date of original publication:


Jill Berger, Darlena Wilson, Linda Potts, Barbara Polivka. Wacky Wednesday: Use of Distraction Through Humor to Reduce Preoperative Anxiety in Children and Their Parents. Journal of PeriAnesthesia Nursing, August 2014; DOI: 10.1016/j.jopan.2013.06.003.