The Teddy Bear Hospital

During a visit to Teddy Bear Hospital, children ‘consult’ with medical students about their ‘sick’ bear. This experience enhances the children’s understanding of their body and health care, and also reduces anxiety about their own visits to doctors and hospitals. Through this interaction the medical students learn how to relate to children - it is a critical skill for any health care professional to be able to convey messages in simple language and deal with the unexpected.

The MMS Department of Paediatrics has taken the Teddy Bear Hospital concept and innovatively expanded it to

  • engage and educate students by incorporating it into the student curricula,
  • provide significant outreach opportunities by participating in community engagement events, and
  • connect with the community in creative and relevant ways with the development of small scale community and school-based programs.

A major innovation has been to include both medical and allied health student volunteers in our Teddy Bear Hospital activities. Uniquely, our Teddy Bear Hospital now involves multiple Schools at the University, including Nursing, Dentistry, Optometry and Physiotherapy, in an adaptive, interdisciplinary educational experience that allows students to develop additional skills relevant to working in multi-disciplinary teams, provides outreach opportunities to a wider student population, and expands the child’s exposure to a wider range of medical and allied health scenarios.

Teddy Bear Hospital programs have grown exponentially with over 20,000 children and their families involved in our educational programs, over 1300 Melbourne University volunteers recruited this year, and more than $60,000 raised for the Good Friday Appeal since the Teddy Bear Hospital’s introduction in 2012.

The University has a vision to transform talented students into thoughtful and accomplished graduates. As part of the Department’s commitment to this vision, the Teddy Bear Hospital program has been incorporated into the Doctor of Medicine and the Best Practice Clinical Learning Environment (BPCLE) Framework Pilot Program. The Teddy Bear Hospital @ RCH is a unique element of the MD program that runs for the length of the students’ Paediatric rotation, whereby students attend a two-hour ‘clinic’ for children and their teddies. The BPCLE Framework assists health services in developing, strengthening and maintaining high quality clinical learning environments between multidisciplinary teams. To capitalise on the excellent learning opportunities available in the Teddy Bear Hospital it has been the incorporated into the BPCLE Framework pilot program to enhance interaction and communication between professional healthcare workers.

Utilising the passion and commitment of our student body, the Department manages a number of innovative Teddy Bear Hospital programs at major fundraising events undertaken under the umbrella of one of our partner institutions, the Royal Children’s Hospital. This includes the Royal Children’s Hospital Good Friday Appeal Kids Day Out.  The innovative and appealing nature of the Teddy Bear Hospital has resulted in a high media profile and contributes significantly to the fundraising efforts of our partner, raising $14,185 in 2015. From our initial involvement of less than 100 medical students, we have innovatively expanded to include over 800 student volunteers from both medical and allied health disciplines.

In 2015, we initiated two exciting innovative new programs to further expand our outreach and engagement with the community. In August, the Teddy Bear Hospital partnered with Chadstone Shopping Centre to hold our inaugural weekend long Winter Check-Up for teddies. The Teddy Bear model was applied innovatively to a shopping centre set up, with check-up stations spread throughout the mall. The University had over 400 students volunteering their time to engage with and educate over 1200 children and their families. The event captured huge media coverage on all major newspapers, radio stations and prime time news reports and raised over $10,000 for the Good Friday Appeal. We are currently developing a similar event for 2016.

The Department has also been proactive in supporting a student-led initiative, the Teddy Bear Hospital Outreach Program which operates Victoria-wide throughout the year to further engage students and children, both locally and rurally. Under this innovative program, volunteer medical and allied health students stage Teddy Bear Hospitals at primary schools and kindergartens in metropolitan and rural Victoria and at a range of rural and local community events such as Apollo Bay Show, Maroondah Festival and the Shepparton Show.