Expression of humour by emergency personnel involved in sudden deathwork

Patricia Scott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


This research paper provides an analysis of humour expression as a primary coping mechanism by emergency personnel involved in sudden deathwork in the accident and emergency environment. For a number of decades, the expression of humour has been of interest to philosophers, social psychologists, sociologists, and social anthropologists. More recently the subject captured the attention of researchers of the service professions particularly, in relation to the beneficial expression of humour by emergency personnel. The research took place in accident and emergency departments at hospitals in the North of England. Nine focus groups were conducted on three sets of nurses in three accident and emergency departments, three groups of paramedics at their respective hospital ambulance station, and three groups of traffic officers from one Constabulary covering the geographical area of the three hospitals. The results identified seven themes containing examples of the expression of humour in sudden death encounters from everyday practice. The discussion explains how sudden death has become an existential problem generating societal fears about mortality, decay, and decomposition, which impact on how emergency personnel feel about and handle the sudden death aspect of their role. The value of humour as a stress reducing mechanism is recognized by emergency personnel and acknowledged as a normalizing characteristic of emergency care culture.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)350-364
Number of pages15
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2007


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