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Teddy bear hospital: where clinical gets cuddly

BMJ 2009; 339 doi: (Published 20 November 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;339:b4912
  1. Sasha Thambapillai, fifth year medical student
  1. 1Imperial College, London

Teddy bear hospital helps children learn about health

“Doctor, doctor my teddy’s got no brain,” is just one of the challenging presentations facing doctors at the Teddy Bear Hospital.

Teddy Bear Hospital is a place where young children can bring their sick teddy bears to see a teddy bear doctor, and where they can use stethoscopes, sphygmomanometers, and syringes (of course, without needles) to help the doctors diagnose and treat sick teddies. Along the way they learn about healthy eating, exercise, and common childhood illnesses.

The teddy bear doctors are really medical students, and the various scenarios the sick teddies go through simulate a typical hospital visit for a child. This simple role play aims to make children feel comfortable with hospitals and doctors and also improve medical students’ communication skills with children.

Teddy Bear Hospital is a public health project aimed at 3-7 year old children. It is an official project of the European Medical Students Association (EMSA), the International Federation of Medical Students Association (IFMSA), and Medsin. The project initially started in Norway in 2000. Following its success, the scheme was adapted across several countries, including Slovenia, the Netherlands, Germany, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom. It is run entirely by medical students, although it is widely supported by many doctors as well as parents and school teachers, who accompany the children.

How do the children benefit?

Children can feel intimidated and anxious when they see a doctor, which can lead to a debilitating fear of hospitals and hospital staff. Being surrounded by strangers, and having to undergo examinations and investigations, combined with an unfamiliar hospital environment, can be a very traumatic experience for young children. As a result, both …

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