Puppets aren’t limited to entertainment and education. They can also be used in hospitals and clinics to assist in calming fears and helping distract while a procedure is happening.
I remember a time in Moscow Russia, going to a children’s hospital there. It still tears me up thinking about it. I saw a young girl, maybe 7 or 8, sitting alone. She seemed to enjoy the puppet performance that our group did, but didn’t interact with the puppets the same way.the others did. Long story short, I went over with one of our smaller puppets and laid it on the table net to her. Obviously I know absolutely no Russian, well I can say a few words, but nothing major. Anyway, I ended up showing her how to put it on and how to operate the mouth, within minutes she had the puppet trying to teach my puppet, what I thought was Russian, but would later find out was Romanian. I didn’t have a clue to what was being said, but it was fun. As we left, she gave me the biggest hug and one of the nurses looked as if she was about to cry. She went and spoke to our translator and I thought I may have done something wrong at first. As we boarded the bus, the translator, almost in tears herself, explained to me that the girl was an orphan, a victim of the Bosnian war. She watched as her mother and father were killed, then she was raped and almost killed herself. She had been at the hospital for about three months and in that time had not said a word
Many hospitals around the world use puppets to entertain, teac, soothe and comfort, and much more. Psychologists use puppets to help children open up about abuse and tragedy. Often times, tragic events can cause a child to experience shock, PTSD and irrational phobias; the puppets help them open up in situations where they may not trust an adult.
The Puppet Portal Project
A group that I love is called The Puppet Portal Project, they combine art, technology and health, in order to help children in hospitals to create interactive puppet performances in Ireland. I wish there were more groups like this. There are some, but not enough.
Check out more on the Puppet Portal Project by visiting http://www.artsandhealth.ie/case-studies/the-puppet-portal-project
Not Just for kids
It’s not just about kids either. No, puppets are also used in nursing homes. Building puppets can help build and keep the dexterity in the hands and arms as well as keep the mind active. Puppets can be used to help calm patients with dementia and alzheimer's. Puppets are great tools for any age when it comes to therapeutic application.
Whether going solo or working with a team, some of the best places to get your first shows, in order to build your credibility as a performer as well as give you the experience you need to take on bigger venues later, is at health care facilities such as hospitals, clinics and nursing homes and if you are a healthcare professional that happened across this blog, If you aren’t using puppetry, try it.
I would love to hear from anyone who has used puppets in a healthcare environment. Leave me your experiences.