Young Doctors, Cuddly Patients: Kindergarten Teddy Bear Clinic

Shortage of physicians? Not in 20 years: 142 children at the ‘Teddy Bear Hospital’ had a unique opportunity to practice their potential medical skills.

The stuffed animal patients ranged from unicorns to teddy bears. 17 students from the JKU’s Faculty of Medicine visited the Commendastraße kindergarten in Linz, expertly helping the three to seven-year-old budding physicians examine their cuddly patients. The young doctors performed CT, EKG and anamnesis exams and, if required, minor surgical procedures. The program was designed to lessen children’s fears and anxieties about doctors and hospitals.

The kids also learned more about ambulance transport in order to lessen their fears in the event of a real emergency. JKU Vice-Rector Andrea Olschewski remarked, “Listening skills, hands-on procedures, making connections, operating if necessary, healing, and helping. This is how kids are introduced to medical procedures when visiting the clinic, reducing their fears.”  Sandra Bertleff, head of the kindergarten, was impressed by the program developed in Scandinavia: “The teddy bear hospital was a valuable experience for the kids. They were so enthusiastic about bringing their favorite stuff animals and imagining the many afflictions they could have.”

Organized by the Austrian Medical Students Association, the program went over very well. The students had a lot of fun and would not be opposed to doing it again. Anna Hofer, a sixth-semester med student, remarked, “I once had to stay in the hospital when I was a child and I remember that I did not understand many of the procedures. I believe this kind of program can help make staying in the hospital less scary. It was also fun to see how curious the children were.”

At the end of the day, all of the children’s cuddly friends were better. In addition to medical care, it was clear to see that cuddle time with many stuffed animals also played a large part of their rapid recovery.