Deb Gauldin can't keep the humor out of anything. Her LinkedIn profile, for example, does have the standard information about her past nurse training (registered nurse 1979-1982, studied at the College of DuPage). But then she lists her focus as "Professional Humorist, Singing Nurse, and Yo-Yo Dieter specializing in Healthcare Morale."
Based in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, Gauldin is the world's funniest singing nurse humorist –– she will tell you so herself. It's an oddball career choice, but she's been laughing all the way to paying the light bill for 23 years now. She has been sharing customized music and humor on stages and in conference rooms in at least 20 countries, always bringing her guitar with her. And just to make sure no one could ever duplicate her job description, even if they were also a yo-yo dieter, she draws cartoons as part of the humor therapy gig.
Gauldin is certified through the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor, and all those gigs have provided her with a birds-eye view of how humor helps people, including nurses. She's also close to the profession, and still looks for ways nurses can use humor in their work. Gauldin put her guitar down for a few minutes to answer a few questions for AJC Pulse, but she didn't pause her joking:
Does your family think you're funny?
In general, yes. I grew up in a home with lots of laughter. My children and grandchildren provide lots of material! My husband has no comment.
Did many un-funny things happen when you were a nurse and before you took up the comedy/singing work?
I think all nurses have witnessed and weathered tragedy. Were it not for our ability to laugh and lean on one another, we would not be able to make it in this field.
Are you one of those people who is funny on stage but seems quite serious in real life?
I am pretty much the same on or off the stage. I love meeting people and am prone to inviting an entire audience for Thanksgiving,
Do you still work as a nurse?
I don't practice in a clinical sense, but when I am on the road "keynoting" I often visit nurses stations in the middle of the night. I show up in my lab coat, aka ratty bathrobe, with my guitar and I simply remind nurses they are not forgotten and are so very appreciated. From their tears, I see how depleted many are, and how therapeutic laughter and gratitude are. I think of it as "nursing the nurses".
When did you decide to become a nurse?
I saw the movie "Singing Nun" when I was about 10. I'm not Catholic, but nursing had me at the last scene from that movie. Sister (Debbie Reynolds) was immunizing children in Africa. A few years ago I was riding a scooter in Bali on the way to a maternity clinic with a guitar on my back. I could never have imagined. Wait, I did imagine it! I have entertained nurses in more than 20 countries!
What is your advice for nurses regarding humor, in 25 words or less?
Recognize the difference between humor we share with one another and humor shared with our clients. When in doubt, leave it out.
And for a second 25 words, remember, nurses don't have to emulate Patch Adams or wear a red nose. There is no need to create humor. Notice and appreciate it naturally occurring around us.
Who is your biggest fan?
My two younger sisters would have to duke it out.
Is there more room in this line of work for other nurses, or is it a pretty specific niche you've carved out?
The pie would only grow larger! It takes awhile to become established, though, so beware of coaches who claim you'll soon be making six figures. I would encourage anyone who may be interested to check out the National Speakers Association and the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor. Don't quit your day job first.
What's one important way nurses can learn to employ humor?
The value of debriefing after a traumatic shift is understood, but I always encourage nurses to find a way to share the funny things that happen. For example, start staff meetings or huddles with your stories, cartoons, funny videos, headlines or signs. When I'm visiting nurse stations, I love to cartoon the stories nurses share with me right on the spot.