February 8, 2010 — Most children hate going for a health checkup because they are scared of being in an unfamiliar setting with foreign medical instruments.
But introduce a teddy bear to the process, and suddenly a visit to the doctor's office is fun.
On Jan. 29, University of Virginia nursing students and assistant professor Carol Lynn Maxwell-Thompson conducted a Teddy Bear Clinic at Clark Elementary School in Charlottesville. The purpose of the clinic was to familiarize 3- and 4-year-old children in the preschool program with nurses and medical instruments.
Karen Grove, an alumna of U.Va.'s School of Nursing and current librarian at Clark Elementary, came up with the idea for the clinic to encourage preschoolers to be more enthusiastic about getting regular checkups. Faculty, staff and students at the Nursing School made personal contributions to buy 56 identical teddy bears through U.Va. Bookstore buyer Jan Taylor, who provided a discounted price.
The nursing students who held the event included Kelly Allen, Anna Armistead, Sarah Borchelt, Jie Chen, Allison Christian, Danielle Deane, Ally Moore, Suzanne Natalie, Amanda Panholzer and Annie Piland.
Before entering the makeshift clinic set up in the school's library, each child was given his or her own teddy bear to keep. Their faces lit up when they were given their gifts and they began inventing names for their bears (such as "Hot Dog," "Spiderman," "Kissy" and "James").
To make the clinic more like a real-life scenario, the children were told that their bears were sick and they needed to help the nurses make the bears better again. As the children filed into the library, they gazed around at the five stations set up the room. They seemed a little intimidated and shy at first; however, after they sat down at the tables with the nursing students, their curiosity overtook their hesitation.
Nursing students showed the children what the medical instruments did and the children began checking out their bears; they looked down the bears' throats with flashlights and tongue depressors, checked heart rate and listened to lungs with a stethoscope, learned how to check blood pressure and temperature, and weighed their bears.
The teachers who observed the event noted how well the 3- and 4-year-olds behaved and were impressed that the preschoolers' concentration spans rarely wavered. By the end of the 30-minute sessions, the preschoolers were testing the instruments out on their peers and having fun play-diagnosing their friends. They left the library with a smile on their faces and bears in their arms, each sporting a T-shirt that said, "Somebody at U.Va. loves me."