How-to with Teddy at the Teddy Bear Hospital

The Teddy Bear Hospital is an educational program organised and run by student volunteers.

800 medical and allied health volunteers from The University of Melbourne participated in the Good Friday Appeal Teddy Bear Hospital in support of the Royal Children's Hospital. This year was the second year to include dentistry in the allied health area with four committee members and over 30 student volunteers from the Doctor of Dental Surgery cohorts participating on the day. More than 3000 children attended the event and over $14,000 was raised for the Royal Children's Hospital making this year's Teddy Bear Hospital the most successful yet.

The Teddy Bear Hospital is an educational program organised and run by student volunteers, aiming to familiarise children with the health care environment using the child's teddy bear as the patient. The emphasis is on fun and upbeat interactions designed to promote future positive behaviour in medical, dental and allied heath settings whilst encouraging the children and their parents to learn about healthy body behaviours. This programme is also an invaluable resource for the healthcare students as they can successfully engage and interact with paediatric patients and their parents or guardians in a low-risk environment.

Four dental committee members, Sarah Roath, Emma Marshall, Shreyas Suryanarayan and Jacinta Traeger, worked in the months leading up to the event to plan and create a range of dental activities designed to engage and educate children and parents alike. The dental contingent built on last year's successful 'dental debut', and it is with many thanks to The Australian Dental Association Victorian Branch for their kind donation which covered the costs of printing and materials for the station activities. The ADAVB donation allowed the Doctor of Dental Surgery students to significantly increase the size of the dental station, the number of volunteer numbers and to provide a larger range of educational activities for the children (and their teddies!).

There were four activities available in the Teddy Bear Dental Surgery – an oral hygiene and safety station, a nutrition station and a teddy dental clinic.  The oral hygiene activity allowed students to demonstrate proper plaque removal techniques as well as activities promoting the use of mouthguards, explaining trauma management and estimating dental age.  The nutrition station proved to be very popular, surprising both children and parents alike by informing them of the high sugar content of chocolate milk and other drinks.  The Teddy Dental Surgery was by far the most popular station as it allowed children to don examination gloves and a surgical gown so they could give their teddy a comprehensive oral examination.  Two groups of dental student volunteers – with pockets full of stickers, lots of enthusiasm and smiles – worked tirelessly to provide cheerful, informative and age-appropriate experiences for children. Information was also freely given to parents accompanied by children and teddies.  Feedback for the Teddy Bear Dental Surgery was unequivocally positive, with parents, visiting Melbourne Dental School lecturers and hospital management remarking that our students were bright, engaged and well-presented.

It is the hope of this year's committee that the Melbourne Dental School cohort will continue to be able to continue to participate in this volunteer experience with the medical and allied health teams in educating students and families alike. We anticipate that the future activities for the Teddy Bear Surgery will include information on thumb-sucking and early intervention orthodontics and we also look to extend the volunteering opportunities the Bachelor of Oral Health students.


This article was originally published on 30 September 2015.