Teddy bear clinic helps kids adapt to hospital

March 16 / 177

Teddy Bear Hospital ‘physician’ and medical student John Politis with clinic visitor Caitlin Benjamin. Photo: Peter Casamento
Teddy Bear Hospital ‘physician’ and medical student John Politis with clinic visitor Caitlin Benjamin. Photo: Peter Casamento

Melbourne’s medical students are taking their Teddy Bear Hospital on the road – starting with the Apollo Bay Show.

Record numbers of students will take part in the hospital this year – with over 900 students from nursing, dentistry, physiotherapy, optometry, audiology, medicine and bioscience signed up.

As always, the focus will be on the children. Hospitals are a daunting place for kids, so the Teddy Bear Hospital helps demystify the hospital process by allowing them to experience it while they care for their teddy bears – the patients.

“Enabling children to explore through imagination and play is a fantastic way for them to reduce their own fears about medical interactions. The Teddy Bear Hospital is a fun and educational way for children to do that,” says Professor Paul Monagle, Head of the Department of Paediatrics, University of Melbourne. 

Health and medical students dressed up in their scrubs and stethoscopes guide the children and their cuddly patients through the Teddy Bear Hospital’s Emergency, Surgery, Radiology and Physiotherapy departments. 

“Apart from the benefits for the children, the Teddy Bear Hospital is an amazing opportunity for health care students of all disciplines to improve their communication and listening skills. Many students have little experience with children and being able to develop techniques to communicate with, and reach children in a safe environment for the student is incredibly important,” Professor Monagle says.

The Teddy Bear Hospital’s visit to the Apollo Bay Show is part of the students’ work to bring the educational experience to more children. They want the Teddy Bear Hospital to appear at shopping centers and other community spaces in the future. 

“Often children from rural areas or disadvantaged suburbs don’t get the same opportunities as city kids, and we want to try and extend this opportunity to as many parts of the community as possible.”

The fantastic work of the student volunteers in previous years has ensured the success of the program – reaching over 15,000 children, and raising funds for the Good Friday Appeal.

“This year will be our fifth Good Friday appeal and the University of Melbourne/Royal Children’s Hospital Teddy Bear Hospital continues to grow and reach more children, and involve more students every year. We are very proud of its achievements to date and are looking forward to another fun year.”

The Teddy Bear Hospital will be in Apollo Bay this Saturday 19 March. It will also be at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre for the Good Friday Appeal’s ‘Kids Day Out’ on Friday 25 March. For more information about the Hospital, and taking part, visit the Teddy Bear Hospital website.

Story by Bridget O’Reilly.


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