Just Emergencies Episode 3: Clowning and Nursing

PE3: Clowning and Nursing

Professor Tim Cunningham (twitter:@timcunninghamrn) wears many hats: he’s a Professor at Emory University, he’s a nurse, he’s a clown, and most recently, a children’s book author. In episode 3 of Just Emergencies, Tim shared his experiences of working as a performer with Clowns Without Borders following the 2010 Haiti earthquake and as a pediatric nurse during the Ebola Outbreak in Sierra Leone.

Listen to the full episode or read the transcripts

“And it was amazing to see children smile and laugh the same way I’ve seen healthy kids smile and laugh when I would do dumb stuff like juggle. And some kids, smiling on their death beds. Some kids able to still be distracted as literally they were actively dying of Ebola.”

Laughter might not be the first thing that pops into our minds when we think of Global Health Emergencies. Yet in my conversation with Tim, it becomes clear that many children in devastating circumstances relish small moments of joy and humour – especially at Tim’s painful experience of having fire ants crawl up his legs.

In addition to his work in Haiti, Tim discusses what is was like to be a nurse in Sierra Leone during the Ebola outbreak, the importance of self-care during this incredibly stressful time, the contrast of returning to the country a year after the outbreak had been controlled, and why the kite is a symbol of resilience.

To find out more, listen to Episode 3: Clowning and Nursing


ACEs: Adverse Childhood Experiences

ICU: Intensive Care Unit

NGO: Non-Governmental Organisations

UN: United Nations

UVA: University of Virginia

Links and Further Resources

Want to hear more about Tim? You can watch Tim talk in more depth about his time in Sierra Leone in the video UVA Double Take: Tim Cunningham or read about him in Laughing at This Man might be Good for Your Health.

Tim’s book ‘A Good Kite’ can be bought here at https://www.agoodkite.com/

Clowns Without Borders

Partners in Health

Plan International

Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders)



‘Just Emergencies’ is produced and edited by Rebecca Richards and made with funding from the Wellcome Trust.

Image by Anna Kilosyuk on Unsplash.

Our intro song is ‘The sun comes up, I come down’ by Silicon Transmitter.

Our outro song is ‘Surge and Swell’ by Pictures of the Floating World.

Both are available under an Attribution-Noncommerical-ShareAlike3.0 Creative Commons License from Free Music Archive.