Running head: teddy bear clinics



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Running head: TEDDY BEAR CLINICS

Teddy Bear Clinics:

A “Paws-On” Health Education Model

Kyle Amsler

Abstract

This paper explores three published articles that report on findings from research on the effectiveness of teddy bear clinics and four published articles that explore how to plan and execute a successful teddy bear clinic in a children’s hospital or community setting. Teddy bear clinics have been utilized and studied around the world. Research studies done in Germany, Israel, and Norway found that teddy bear clinics gave children better knowledge of their body, health, and disease and decreased anxiety and fear around visiting the hospital compared to children in control groups (Bloch & Toker, 2008; Husoy, 2013; Leonhardt et al., 2014). While there have been no formal research studies done in the United States, teddy bear clinics have been successfully implemented across the country in hospital and community settings (Creedon, 1989; Giefer & Sheverbush, 1999; Santen & Feldman, 1994; Zimmermann & Santen, 1997). More quantitative research must be done to establish a solid evidence-base for the practice of teddy bear clinics.

Teddy Bear Clinics:

A “Paws-On” Health Education Model

Teddy bear clinics, also called teddy bear hospitals, are a preventative health and education mechanism for school-aged children to learn about wellness and to decrease anxiety about going to the hospital. They are used worldwide, originating in Boston at the Shriners Burn Institute (Creedon, 1989). The main aims of teddy bear clinics are to reduce young children’s fear of doctors, hospitals, and medical procedures and to enhance their knowledge of health and disease as well as to increase medical students’ understanding of young children (Leonhardt et at., 2013). At a teddy bear clinic, children are exposed to a simulated hospital and are asked to act as the parents of a teddy bear patient while rotating through various medical stations set up as different parts of the hospital (Bloch & Toker, 2008).

Teddy bear clinics are an important health education model that benefit children psychosocially. Children are often unfamiliar with the hospital environment, medical procedures, and health care personnel, and will use magical thinking to create fantasies and distort information about what hospitalization entails (Santen & Feldman, 1994). Young children need to use their five senses and see, feel, and experience in order to learn, which the teddy bear clinic model provides them with its “hands-on” approach to health education. Teddy bear clinics allow children to learn about the hospital and explore and manipulate medical equipment and situations in an age-appropriate, pain-free, non-threatening environment. The clinics can be used to teach children about a number of healthcare experiences, including hospitalization, doctor checkups, back-to-school vaccinations, fire safety, choking hazards, and how to call emergency services on the phone.

Current research shows that teddy bear clinics reduce anxiety and fear of hospitals and improve knowledge of the body, health, disease, and the hospital setting for school-age children. Articles written by experienced professionals who have implemented teddy bear clinics in children’s hospitals and community settings show that effective clinics include role play, allow for manipulation of materials by children, result from collaboration between professionals, communities, and organizations, use real-life medical equipment, take place in a realistic setting, and have stations for children to rotate through in small groups. This paper examines the literature and research about teddy bear clinics in order to demonstrate their positive impact on children and urge widespread implementation, and to offer ideas for future research studies.



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