Grin and bear it lesson for youngsters at teddy clinic

Stuffing, fuzz and fur may not be part of the human anatomy, but that will not stop the teddy bears of Dunedin from being a helpful part of the medical world.

University of Otago medical student Elise Forman said the Teddy Bear Hospital at Elim Church helped children overcome fear and anxiety about seeing healthcare providers.

The hospital was a volunteer-run collaboration between the School of Dentistry and the Otago University Medical Students Association, Miss Forman said. 

Ariana Kristel (6) holds her teddy  Cookie for a check-up by medical student Alice Ihaka at the...
Ariana Kristel (6) holds her teddy Cookie for a check-up by medical student Alice Ihaka at the Teddy Bear Hospital in Dunedin yesterday. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON

Kindergarten groups could bring along their soft toys for a session with teddy doctors and dentists, who would take them through the process of a real visit, using authentic instruments in a fun way.

"When they get get sick it can be very overwhelming and scary having to go into that kind of environment."

Learning in a fun way helped children familiarise themselves with the situation, she said.

"They do pick up on the vibes you give off, so they associate doctors with being happy and there to help you.

"They’re all keen to give it a go. It’s been so good."

Those without a teddy were not left out, as the hospital had 150 soft toys donated by the Medical Assurance Society to give away to children who needed them. 

It was the ninth year the Teddy Bear Hospital had operated, and parents had reported many stories of success, Miss Forman said.

One parent told her that when their son broke his arm he was unafraid of the doctor because he had already been through the process with his teddy bear.

Some sessions were available in te reo, she said.

The clinic would continue at Elim Church until Friday and would be open to the public on Saturday at the Hunter Centre in North Dunedin, with bookings, and at Carisbrook School, with no booking required.

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