"If we didn't use humor, we'd cry": humorous coping communication in health care settings

J Health Commun. 2005 Mar;10(2):105-25. doi: 10.1080/10810730590915092.


Folkman and Lazarus's transactional theory of emotion and coping was used to explain how humor influences job satisfaction among health care providers. One hundred forty-two nurses completed measures of humor orientation (HO), coping efficacy, job satisfaction, and open-ended questions about their use of humor to relieve job tensions. This produced 9 categories of producing humor and 8 types of work situations identified in which humor was used to cope. Nurses (21.4%) reported using humor the most often during "patient care" situations (e.g., providing medicines, moving patients, physical therapy, and so on). More than one third (38.66%) of the nurses reported using "word-play/language" as a humorous coping strategy. Higher HO was associated with higher ratings of humor effectiveness, greater self-perceived coping efficacy, and higher emotional expressivity. Path analysis demonstrated that, as the transactional theory would predict, trait HO influences job satisfaction through its effect on heightened coping efficacy. Study limitations include the use of self-report methods and the limited number of responses to the open-ended items. Subsequent research in this area should attempt to validate the categories identified in this study and determine the most effective means of coping. Researchers also should explore differences in health care providers' coping communication based on gender, years of experience, and profession.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Humans
  • Job Satisfaction
  • Nurse-Patient Relations*
  • Nurses / psychology*
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology*
  • Stress, Psychological / therapy
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Wit and Humor as Topic*