Teddy Bear Clinics

Teddy Bear Clinics ease the stress of the ED

Cuddly friends comfort our youngest patients during medical emergencies

The Project: Do you remember your first visit to the hospital? If you were a child with a medical emergency, chances are your memories of the hospital Emergency Department include feelings of fear and confusion, pain or sickness, and worst of all…needles.

But now imagine being a child arriving in the Emergency Department and being given your own teddy bear that will be with you throughout your stay – a Caring Bear. During treatment, your nurse is able to distract you with your bear while an intravenous line is inserted, or blood is drawn. Your doctor shows you how an upcoming procedure will work, whether it’s a shot, a stitch, or an x-ray, using your bear as the ‘patient’. Suddenly your situation isn’t quite as scary thanks to your Caring Bear.

“We try hard to make everyone feel at ease when they come into our ED, especially kids,” says Betty O’Hagan, RN, Director of Emergency Services. “But the fact is that sometimes children are traumatized because of injuries or illness. It may seem like a small gesture, but giving a child the comfort and security of a teddy bear can distract them from their surroundings, calm their nerves, and allay their fears.”

It can also allow the ED staff to work more efficiently and effectively. The bears are useful in helping the medical staff demonstrate unfamiliar procedures to children. “A Caring Bear can help kids better understand what’s next, and it’s a special friend to squeeze. Children will know that we care about them and that we’re doing everything we can to help make them feel better,” O’Hagan says.

The Background: Columbia Memorial recently hosted two “Teddy Bear Clinics” for nearly 200 local kindergarten students. The events were designed to help kids overcome the fear that often comes with being at a hospital and especially with a trip to the Emergency Department.

Each student who attended was given a teddy bear outfitted with a Columbia Memorial t-shirt and a hospital bracelet. They were taken to the Hospital’s new Observation Unit adjacent to the Emergency Department where they rotated through a series of stations manned by ED doctors and nurses who helped ‘treat’ their bears for a range of ailments. Some teddy bears needed bear-sized arm slings, others needed nebulizer breathing treatments, and still others needed stitches to fix teddy bear cuts. Regardless of the teddy bear’s diagnosis and treatment, at the end of the event kids were all smiles knowing that their bears would get better and that the hospital is not such a scary place after all.

Shortly after these clinics, a member of the administrative staff was with a friend in the ED when two anxious children came in for treatment. “What if,” the staff member thought, “we were able to give teddy bears to those kids?”

Following an experience in the ED, the memories that children and their parents take away with them may last a lifetime. Our goal is to create positive memories for the members of our community through our Teddy Bear Clinics.

To schedule a Teddy Bear Clinic, please call 518-697-5288.