Humor intervention in the nurse-patient interaction

  • Luís Sousa
  • Cristina Marques-Vieira
  • Vanessa Antunes
  • Fátima Frade
  • Sandy Severino
  • Olga Valentim
Keywords: Communication; Nurse-Patient Relations; Wit and Humor as subject; Nursing.


Background: Studies carried out in the field of humor as a nursing intervention have demonstrated that it has benefits in people’s health and well-being (José, 2010; Sousa & José, 2013; Sousa et al., 2015; Sousa & José, 2016; Sousa et al., 2018a). It has been integrated into nursing practice and classified nursing languages given its importance as an intervention in NIC (Butcher et al., 2018), and as a resource and intervention in the International Classification for Nursing Practice (ICNP) (International Council of Nurses, 2016). However, in care, nurses do not value it (Haydon & Riet, 2014; Sousa & José, 2016; Sousa et al., 2018), as they are afraid of being unprofessional, hence it is not systematized in the planning and provision of care (Sousa & José, 2016; Sousa et al., 2018).

Objective: Describe the factors that influence the use of humor in nursing care, its applicability and benefits.

Method: A scoping review was performed using the Arksey and O'Mally methodology. The research question was as follows: what knowledge is produced regarding the integration of the humor intervention (Concept) in the interaction nurse-patient (Context) in a situation of disease (Patient)? Search performed on the EBSCO Host, Virtual Health Library and Google Scholar platforms for articles published between 2008 and 2018. Initially 465 articles were found. From the initial 465 articles found.

Results: The sample was 17 articles. Data allowed retrieval of information on humor definition; its applicability as a nursing intervention; humor as a tool to improve nurse-patient communication and relationship; influence factors; type of humor interventions; humor benefits in health care context; and limitations and precautions of humor intervention.

Humor is a subjective emotional response resulting from the recognition and expression of incongruities of a comic or absurd situation.

The humor is humanizing, it allows to improve the experience lived in hospital context; it also allows to improve the communication and the trust between the nurse and the person during the process of care. On the other hand, it increases the person's participation in care.

The use of humor favors communication, which plays an important role in human interactions. It helps to promote well-being; dealing with difficult and unpleasant situations, reducing tension, stress and discomfort; increase tolerance to pain, and strengthen the immune system.

It is influenced by internal (personality) factors and external and social factors. Humor is a complex nursing intervention, which should be used when appropriate. However, nurses should use it with caution since it requires training and individualized strategies.

Conclusion: The use of humor promotes both communication and human interaction; it promotes well-being; helps dealing/coping with difficult and unpleasant situations, reduces tension, discomfort and stress; and strengthen the immune system. This methodology in this study highlights not only its contribution to the development of qualitative research, but it also evidences the practical implications of using humor as a nursing intervention, in improving the relationship and experience of patients.