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Personal and social influences on the use of humour in the interactions of student nurses in UK clinical settings

12 March 2020
12 min read
Volume 29 · Issue 5


Humour is a centuries-old phenomenon studied by many disciplines. Social and personal identity play a role in the creation, recognition, understanding, appreciation and use of humour. This study, which used interpretative phenomenological analysis to explore preregistration nursing students' experiences of the use of humour in the UK clinical setting, highlights what affects the students' use of humour. The influence of sex, age, and culture and ethnicity on the participants' use of humour with patients and healthcare staff is evidenced and explored; the influence of sex did not strictly follow traditional expectations.

Humour, as a phenomenon, has interested philosophers through the ages and been researched in many disciplines. It is a part of a person's identity, both social and personal. Social identity arises from the groups one belongs to, such as those defined by sex, age, religion or ethnicity, and personal identity from a person's own tastes, bodily attributes and so forth (Hay, 1995). Several authors have recognised these components of identity as influencing one's humour creation, recognition, understanding, appreciation and use.

Understanding these aspects of humour is important for student nurses, since they will be expected to have and develop the knowledge, skills and attitude to communicate effectively with all members of the general public, who may become service users (Nursing and Midwifery Council, 2018). Alongside this, policy and public priorities are focused on recruiting a certain type of person who holds particular values to preregistration healthcare programmes. Preregistration nursing students, like many others, claim to have a sense of humour, yet Astedt-Kurki and Liukkonen (1994) highlighted one student nurse's perception that she was not allowed to have a personality, let alone a sense of humour.

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