Teddy bears receive annual winter check-up

Students at teddy bear hospital event

Hundreds of teddy bears received their winter check-ups at the seventh annual Teddy Bear Hospital on Saturday 19 August and Sunday 20 August.

Hosted by Chadstone – The Fashion Capital, in partnership with the University of Melbourne and the Royal Children’s Hospital, this mock-up hospital visit involved children taking their teddies to five check-up stations operated by volunteer medical, nursing, physiotherapy, optometry, and dentistry students.

Running since 2009, the Teddy Bear Hospital is a student-led initiative that aims to provide children with positive healthcare experiences and promote health and wellbeing in a fun and interactive way.

Professor Paul Monagle, Head of the Department of Paediatrics at the University of Melbourne and Supervising Academic of the Teddy Bear Hospital since 2015, said the initiative is an invaluable learning experience for students.

“The Teddy Bear Hospital is a great way for our medical and health sciences students to learn about communication,” Professor Monagle said.

“We know that children care about how you interact with them and how you make them feel; they are therefore the most honest and best teachers of clinical communication skills, because you will know it if you have not succeeded.

“All health professionals could learn from this experience and hopefully apply these learnings to their daily work.”

Students at teddy bear hospital event

Audrey Lui, a final year student of the Doctor of Medicine, is currently placed at the Austin Hospital in Heidelberg – where she is learning intern skills like proper documentation, patient communication and prescribing medications. She is a member of the organising committee of the Teddy Bear Hospital and reflects on what children and the volunteers gain from the experience.

“The intention is twofold. For the kids who come through, it’s basically about alleviating the fear of healthcare settings, so they are not scared of hospitals and are not afraid to seek help when they need it,” Lui said.

“And then for the students, they get to improve on their communication skills, especially for paediatric communication.”

Maggie Gao is also a final year medical student, undertaking her placement at the Austin Hospital.

“The main lesson about communication that I’ve learnt from the Teddy Bear Hospital is to be a good listener. I think that’s something that all doctors could do a little bit better,” Gao said.

“You’d be surprised at the very different and creative stories the kids have to offer, and I think it’s a very good skill to develop early on in any health science career – to listen to the patient first before you jump in.”

Highlights from the day were featured on 7News Melbourne.

Proceeds from every teddy bear purchase go towards the Good Friday Appeal.