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  1. Adamle, Kathleen PhD, RN, AOCN
  2. Turkoski, Beatrice PhD, RN


Over the past few decades, increasing evidence has shown the beneficial effects of humor. The use of caregiver-initiated humor as an intervention in healthcare settings has both physiological and emotional benefits. Little has been written, however, about another very important aspect of humor, patient-initiated humor. When patients use humor to relieve their feelings of stress, uncertainty, or embarrassment, they are trying to communicate with their caregiver. This use of humor by patients is not to "make light" of the situation, but rather a way to reduce their feelings of dehumanization. Humor is an interactive process of sharing and an important aspect of communication. Patients will observe the caregiver for a response. An open, accepting response signals understanding; a negative or null response, however, may serve to isolate the patient. The guidelines discussed in this article for recognizing, interpreting, and responding to patient-initiated humor will help home care and hospice nurses to foster increased open patientcaregiver communication and create a supportive humanistic atmosphere for patient care.