Humor in the emergency room: a social work perspective

Health Soc Work. 1997 May;22(2):87-92. doi: 10.1093/hsw/22.2.87.


Social workers can learn much about the uses of humor from workers in the turbulent and fast-paced atmosphere of a large city hospital emergency room in which it flourishes. This article illustrates staff use of five varieties of humor in this stressful and sometimes dangerous setting: (1) tension-relieving nonsense, (2) play on words, (3) sense of the preposterous and incongruous, (4) gallows humor, and (5) foolish jest. Above all, this article discusses the ability to endure day after day the occurrence of unspeakable trauma.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Emergency Service, Hospital*
  • Holistic Health
  • Hospitals, Urban
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Language
  • Personnel, Hospital / psychology*
  • Social Work / methods*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • United States
  • Wit and Humor as Topic*
  • Workforce