Isabel Rosado has a background as a teacher of visual and technological education for primary school students. Currently, she serves as the president of the organization Palhaços d’Opital.
Being one of the founders, Isabel’s mission and vision at PdO are fully reflected in her daily work, and she tries to have them shared and embraced by all who collaborate with her.
On February 12, 2013, Palhaços d’Opital was established. It was a cutting-edge and innovative project in Portugal and Europe because it was built from the ground up to work with seniors in a hospital setting.
Palhaços d’Opital wants to introduce the Clown Doctors’ art, work, and mission to adults and seniors in a hospital setting through frequent visits made by staff members with specialized training (clowns, musicians, actors, etc.).
Palhaços d’Opital, which focuses on the senior public and uses humor and artistic performances to promote people’s well-being in a novel way, is thus exceptional and has already been the subject of scientific case studies that validate its intervention.
Below are highlights of the interview:
Can you tell us a little about your journey before cofounding Palhaços d’Opital?
Before Palhaços d’Opital, there was a teacher named Isabel. For 25 years, I was an elementary school teacher.
Despite having been very involved in youth associations, and having represented Portugal in international youth meetings, I had no experience in entrepreneurship or the third sector until the founding of Palhaços d’Opital (PdO).
What do you consider before bringing someone onto your team?
We consider that there are two sides to the same coin that is Palhaços d’Opital: the clown doctors and the back office.
We seek artists who are sensitive to dealing with people, particularly the elderly; who are sensitive to managing the hospital environment and coming into contact with very harsh realities; and who identify with the mission of Palhaços d’Opital.
We are looking for people who want to grow professionally and make a difference in society.
On the other side, we have the back office team, all those who work to make the hospital’s work possible.
Here, whenever we look for a new person, for any department, we try to make them complete the team: by bringing different ideas, and new points of view, and whose strengths are those that make up for the weaknesses identified in our organization.
We foster a team spirit, and we aim for collective growth.
Transversal to all of this must be someone tenacious who “wears the jersey,” who believes in our cause, and who shares the mission’s spirit.”
Tell us more about clown doctors.
Our team is made up of professional artists, trained in the areas of clown doctor, theater, and music, with performing experience and specific training in the area of clown doctor in a hospital environment.
We do more than 250 hours of training per year.
The selection process for our clown doctors goes through four stages, followed by an internship.
Only after 3 to 6 months do we start the hospital visits, always in pairs and accompanied by a senior clown doctor.
Our hospital dynamics are thought out, structured, tested, and rehearsed, and it may take 3 to 6 months of work before they are presented in the hospital.
We always work in pairs and in partnership with health professionals.
At this moment, we have a team of five clown doctors.
Are your and your team’s initiatives improving health processes? What is the goal behind your work?
With the assumption of bringing positivity to more critical environments with lightness and joy, the intervention of clown doctors seeks to create moments of abstraction from pain or illness by intervening through laughter, humor, joy, music, and artistic performances, taking this art as a form of therapeutic intervention, seeking a positive impact on the mood and emotional state of those who are in hospital.
These artistic interventions also seek to humanize the hospital space where the adults and seniors are, valuing and dignifying the elderly and thus providing an environment more conducive to a healthier and faster recovery.
Besides the social impact on the hospitalized senior population, there are also positive externalities that our project intends to achieve with its intervention, which includes working with art, humor, joy, music, poetry, artistic performances, dance, and affection in order to bring those for whom and with whom they work to a happier state of mind with more positive energy, providing an environment more conducive to a healthier and faster recovery. Seeking to improve the condition of the senior population in a hospital environment, draw attention to the fact that we have an increasingly aging population and that it is necessary to create support programs and monitor them through professionals with training and experience in this area.
Palhaços d’Opital, through its intervention, also intends to be an agent with a mission to enhance and dignify the role of seniors in society.
How do you generate great ideas in your organization?
At PdO, we work very much as a team.
On the artistic side, there is intense weekly work to generate new ideas.
There is also a monthly meeting that brings together the two parts of the team, where challenges are projected and ideas to overcome them are generated.
One point that we do not neglect is making sure that everyone feels heard, valued, and involved. At Palhaços d’Opital, everyone has a voice.
What is the culture like at your company? What is your leadership style?
I enjoy working together in a team, and I like that everyone feels that there is room for their ideas and what they bring with them.
As a leader, I fundamentally seek to inspire and motivate the team.
I understand that my purpose is to guide and make sure that the purpose and mission of PdO are not lost.
I try to know everyone who works with us well enough to bring out the most special things in them or, on the other hand, to look for people on the team who can be supported in the areas where they have the most difficulty.
It ends up being very shared leadership, and I have the feeling that my role is to help fulfill a mission that belongs to everyone.
What qualities are lacking among today’s leaders? And what three books can you recommend on leadership?
I think that what leaders often lack is a mission with which they identify. Too often, the mission is focused on making money. When we fight for a cause, we are inspired every day to know what we are looking for and where we want to go. We have a vision of what we want for the future of our organization. The mission is what guides us; it is our lighthouse.
But the mission has to be something superior to us that will prevail beyond us. We must not be guided by goals that are too easy to achieve. We must dream big. Of course, we should have short-term goals that are easily achievable. But then there has to be a greater purpose that guides and underpins everything—our action, our way of acting.