Humor in nursing practice: a phenomenological study

Int J Nurs Stud. 1997 Oct;34(5):346-52. doi: 10.1016/s0020-7489(97)00026-6.


Humor is an important but underutilized resource in nurse-patient interaction. The multidimensional value of humor in providing nursing care has recently begun to receive attention. The purpose of this phenomenological study was to describe the meaning of nurses' use of humor in their nursing practice. Twenty-one registered nurses enrolled in a graduate nursing program described in detail an experience they had using humor in providing nursing care. The 21 written descriptions were analyzed using Colaizzi's phenomenological method. Five themes emerged in which humor was found to (a) help nurses deal effectively with difficult situations and difficult patients, (b) create a sense of cohesiveness between nurses and their patients and also among the nurses themselves, (c) be an effective therapeutic communication technique that helped to decrease patients' anxiety, depression, and embarrassment, (d) be planned and routine or be unexpected and spontaneous, and (e) create lasting effects beyond the immediate moment for both nurses and patients.

MeSH terms

  • Communication Barriers*
  • Education, Nursing, Graduate*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nurse-Patient Relations*
  • Wit and Humor as Topic / psychology*