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Clown doctors aren't party clowns

Medical clowns, or clown doctors, use their storytelling and comic skills to help sick children and elderly patients deal with the range of emotions they undergo during their hospital stays.

Clown doctors are markedly different from the regular clowns invited to children's parties.

First, they refrain from putting on heavy clown make-up because younger patients may find it scary rather than funny. Instead, they simply don a red nose and a colourful outfit under a white lab coat.

Clown doctors also go through comprehensive training, said Ms Eliane Stadelmann-Boving, the programme director and co-founder of Clown Doctors Singapore.

Students of medical clowning study performing arts, health science, psychology and practical clowning.

"This helps them understand the complexities of illnesses and human behaviour, the basis for the work in a hospital environment," she explained.

Qualified clown doctors have to receive certification from the International Institute for Medical Clowning at Steinbeis University in Berlin, Germany, which also offers a diploma and bachelor of arts degree in medical clowning.

The institute has 240 students from over the world enrolled in its courses.

Ms Stadelmann-Boving said that clown doctor candidates here are taught by trainers accredited by the institute, who are specially flown in for the courses.