Teddy Bear Hospital was established in 2009 and is run by students from the University of Melbourne, with the support of The Royal Children’s Hospital Department of Paediatrics. The program aims to provide children with positive health care experiences, promote health and wellbeing, and increase health literacy in the community, while providing medicine and allied health students the opportunity to practice the skills necessary for successfully working with children.
Children bring a beloved teddy or soft toy to the mock hospital and act as the parents of a teddy with a problem. They actively participate in the check-up with the assistance of student volunteers. The check-ups engage children with concepts of health and wellbeing, improve health literacy and encourage healthy habits, such as nutrition and exercise. The fun, relaxed atmosphere of Teddy Bear Hospital also allows children to interact with medicine and health care in a positive manner, and ease any fears or anxieties they may have surrounding doctors visits, the hospital or medical procedures.
Teddy Bear Hospital also offers medicine and allied health students the opportunity to practice working with children and experience paediatric health care. Students practice important paediatric communication skills, such as building rapport and using child-friendly language. They also practice giving information and explaining concepts to participating children, who act as concerned teddy parents.
In addition to their major annual events, the Good Friday Appeal and the Chadstone Winter Check-Up, Teddy Bear Hospital visits children at kindergartens, primary schools and community centres throughout the year.
Each year, Teddy Bear Hospital provides hundreds of future doctors, nurses and allied health professionals with the experience and skills necessary to successfully work with children. The multidisciplinary nature and scale of Teddy Bear Hospital make it unique from other similar programs. Today, Teddy Bear Hospital has grown to include volunteers from across the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences, with medicine, nursing, physiotherapy, optometry, dentistry, audiology, speech pathology and music therapy volunteers. Its success as an educational tool has seen it become a permanent fixture of the Doctor of Medicine (MD) curriculum at the University of Melbourne.