University of Melbourne students run Teddy Bear hospital

25 April 2017

Recently, more than 1,200 medicine, nursing, dentistry, physiotherapy, audiology, biomedical, science, speech pathology and social work students from the University of Melbourne ran a Teddy Bear Hospital (TBH) to raise funds for the Royal Children’s Hospital Good Friday appeal.

University of Melbourne students run Teddy Bear hospital
University of Melbourne students run Teddy Bear hospital

Students aimed to reduce children’s fears associated with medical environments, procedures and professionals by familiarizing them with health care in a fun, relaxed and interactive manner.

These interactions give future young doctors and health care professionals in excellent opportunity to further develop the specific communication and engagement skills required to successfully interact with children.

The students offered Teddy medical consultations to more than 5,000 children, making TBH the largest student volunteer event run by the University of Melbourne.

Professor Cheryl Jones, Stevenson Chair of Paediatrics and Head of the Department of Paediatrics in the Melbourne Medical School said students learn so much more when working as a team.

“The Teddy Professors from the university’s Department of Paediatrics who oversee this student-led program, are amazed at the passion and creativity of the students as they work together to create the toy machines and instruments for the day, and plan and execute this major event,” she said.

“Apart from the fun and fundraising, our students learn more about each other’s multidisciplinary roles and provide practical advice to children and families about how to keep healthy and reduce children’s anxiety about medical environments, procedures and professionals.

“We are very proud to watch this group of students as they are our future health leaders of tomorrow,” Professor Jones said.

Children are asked to bring in a “sick” teddy bear or other toy for treatment at the “hospital.” There are many stations, including teddy triage, teddy doctor consultation, radiology, surgery, and anatomy. There are dedicated student volunteers to design and build the activities and equipment that are used inside the hospital.

Medical student coordinator Elliott Cope believes taking part in the TBH has improved his communication skills, leadership and confidence in interacting with children.

“One of the most memorable interactions was with a four-year-old boy who bought in his dragon teddy bear. The complaint: his dragon had stopped breathing fire,” he said.

Not having much experience with dragon medicine, Elliott was a little stumped, but after a look in the dragon’s throat and a feel of the neck, he diagnosed a dragon cold. After a good night’s sleep and lots of rest, the dragon was back to breathing fire and feeling much better.

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