The Nursing profession is notoriously high-pressure. Many patients that Nurses encounter are in a grave state of need, and Nurses may not always meet their patients’ needs, despite their best efforts. With so many individuals needing a coping mechanism, it’s no wonder that many people turn to the power of humor and laughter.

The Benefits of Humor

To no one’s surprise, it has shown itself to be a powerful tool in the Nursing profession. It can increase a Nurse’s happiness in his/her position and help to avoid burnout.

Sociological and psychological studies have shown that it can diffuse tension in a situation, help lower blood pressure, ease stress and generally produce a feeling of well-being. Laughter and smiling create comparable positive effects.

Inappropriate Humor?

People in the medical profession are often familiar with a kind of dry, morbid humor. Medical professionals deal with matters of life, death and pain, with great immediacy. To give themselves some emotional distance from the matter, many medical professionals utilize this kind of humor among themselves.

But this kind of humor can seem cynical at best. It can alienate or appear disrespectful to patients. It’s important to use it with care, if at all, and to remember that all individuals involved are human beings worthy of respect. As a rule of thumb, it’s never acceptable to make jokes at a patient or colleague’s expense (even if the individual isn’t present, or if it would go over their head); this is doubly true with the kind of dry humor that can be common in Nursing.

Using Humor with Patients

Maintaining boundaries and being professional is key when engaging with patients and their families. But that doesn’t mean that a Nurse isn’t able to use humor in these situations.

It’s important to use a delicate touch when joking with patients. Nurses may not get to know them or their sense of humor very well, and they’re typically involved with patients during times of great emotional vulnerability, including fear or pain. But so long as a Nurse adheres to basic rules of interpersonal sensitivity, caring and respect, a little of it may go a long way to aid in bonding and the creation of empathy between patient and caregiver. It may defuse tension in situations that are otherwise very stressful.


Humor can’t solve all problems within a workplace. If a Nurse is having serious problems on the job, or if they’re going through a crisis outside of work, it won’t be enough to relieve stress and encourage them to stick around. But as an emotional release valve in a potentially grueling profession, occasional moments of humor can have a surprisingly powerful effect.

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