The study explores how outpatient children experience the encounter with a hospital clown; a topic which is dimly described in the existing literature. The study had a qualitative design with a phenomenological-hermeneutical approach, and consisted of participant observations of 14 children aged 2–11 years, of whom 10 children aged 5-11 years were interviewed in 2014. Data from the observations and interviews were analysed through a Ricoeur-inspired method of structural analysis. Results of the study show that, the hospital clown being contrasting and unpredictable enables the children to feel free to play. Feeling free to play and receiving a symbolic lucky stone from the hospital clown helps the children to cope with hospitalization. To some children, who become afraid of the hospital clown, it is important that there is a turning point, where the children open up and starts to thrive. In contrast to previous studies, this study shows that, the children are apparently not experiencing anxiety, but instead fear and nervousness. In conclusion, the study highlights the importance of children’s play during a hospitalization. Furthermore, health professionals should be aware to children’s reaction to a hospital clown and help children to cope with their feelings of being afraid and nervous.

Keywords: Anxiety, child perspective, fear, hermeneutic, nursing, phenomenology