How many students can say that they were in a lecture at noon and then performing surgery on a unicorn at 2pm? That’s a typical Wednesday for volunteers in Teddy Bear Hospital!
What is teddy bear hospital?
Teddy Bear Hospital is a scheme run by different medical schools all around the UK made up of volunteers studying medicine, nursing, midwifery, physiotherapy and pharmacy. All of our volunteers are required to have an enhanced DBS certificate provided by the university as well as attending our annual child safeguarding and volunteer training event.
Teddy Bear Hospital has played a huge role in my medical school experience so far.
Teddy Bear Hospital was set up to try and reduce the anxiety children often feel around healthcare professionals by teaching them a bit about what we do in a fun and informative way. Each medical school teaches a different curriculum. At Keele, we are incredibly lucky to have expanded our programme to teach both 4-5 year olds and 10-11 year olds.
We typically visit the schools on a Wednesday afternoon during the time allocated for sports. Depending on the age group, we run a variety of stations covering topics such as asthma, operations, healthy eating and mental health. Each station is run by two volunteers and we usually split the children into groups, with 12 children at each station so they are able to get more involved. We encourage all the children to bring in their teddy bears for the day to help them practice their new skills such as brushing their teeth or holding their paw while they are getting ready for "surgery".
The benefits of volunteering
Volunteering for Teddy Bear Hospital gives medical students an incredible opportunity to get out into the community and make a difference, especially for those in their pre-clinical years when it can feel very far away. Volunteers are able to practice explaining quite tricky topics to children which will be very useful throughout their future careers, as well as having a lot of fun!
Many students who don’t have much experience with children can find this quite intimidating at first but it’s a great way to improve communication and gain confidence, essential skills for anyone but particularly useful for future medical professionals.
Why I love Teddy Bear Hospital
Teddy Bear Hospital has played a huge role in my medical school experience so far. I knew I wanted to be a part of it as soon as I read the bio on the website, but I never imagined I would be in charge of the society at Keele one day! The biggest highlight for me so far has been developing the mental health station last year which we teach to pupils in year 5 and 6.
By providing a safe space for the children to open up, we were able to identify those who needed a bit of extra support and share this with the schools so they could continue to help. I was completely overwhelmed by the response we had to the station and I’ll never forget the feeling I have coming away from those school visits.
I would strongly encourage anyone who wants to pursue a career in paediatrics or who wants to get involved in the community to join Teddy Bear Hospital, you’ll always leave a visit with a huge smile on your face.
Issy is a third year medical student at Keele University. She is the current president of the Teddy Bear Hospital society at Keele and has a particular interest in paediatrics and cardiothoracic surgery.
See more by Issy Soans