‘Smiles and joy’ as 700 children attend Teddy Bear Hospital at University of Limerick
Pictured at University of Limerick’s Teddy Bear Hospital were UL student Eleanor Burke with Our Lady of Lourdes National School Limerick pupil, Aden Pictures: Alan Place
Wednesday, 14 February 2024

There were ‘smiles and joy’ and some fluffy toy medical fun at University of Limerick this Wednesday, as the doctors of the future treated ‘patients’ at a Teddy Bear Hospital.

Over 700 primary school pupils had the opportunity to interact with students from UL’s School of Medicine in a fun and engaging way as the Teddy Bear Hospital took place in the UL Sport Arena.

The event trains medical students to develop empathy and compassion in a fun way as the children bring their own teddy bears through several different scenarios, each showcasing a different aspect of medicine such as triage, X-ray, surgery and first aid, learning through games and role play.

The Teddy Bear Hospital is a unique and interactive initiative that allows children to experience the atmosphere of a healthcare encounter without being a patient themselves and aims to alleviate childhood anxiety surrounding hospitals and doctors.

Among those schools in attendance were Salesian Primary School, Gaelscoil Chaladh an Treoigh, St Brigid’s National School, Our Lady of Lourdes National School, Presentation Primary School, Gaelscoil Sáirséal, Ballyea National School, Corpus Christi School and Milford National School.

This year, the event was organised by 200 volunteers consisting of students and tutors from UL’s graduate entry medical programme.

Dr Louise Crowley, Associate Professor in Clinical Skills and Head of Undergraduate Studies at UL’s School of Medicine, outlined how the UL Teddy Bear Hospital contributes to the medical students’ experience.

“Teddy Bear Hospital has been a student-led initiative since it was first established at UL’s School of Medicine in 2013.

“Our students demonstrate great leadership in promoting, coordinating and fundraising for the event. They also have to hone their communication skills when dealing with staff and teachers at the many schools that Teddy Bear Hospital welcomes each year.

“The event helps our medical students to develop empathy and compassion, in addition to helping their confidence for when they will interact with children as patients. All of these skills are key skills for future doctors.”

The medical students themselves see the importance of the initiative to the children attending.

Second-year medical student, Amrit Dhindsa, explained: “After participating in last year’s Teddy Bear Hospital, we have a newfound appreciation and insight for health education and compassion in the medical field. The event highlighted the benefits of early exposure to healthcare for young children, creating a welcoming atmosphere for them to foster a positive perception of healthcare.

“Our experiences reinforced the importance of building trust between healthcare providers and patients, as children who were reluctant at the start, became more comfortable and confident in ‘diagnosing’ and ‘treating’ their teddies throughout the day.”

Amrit’s classmate, Olivia Pezzutti, explained how the Teddy Bear Hospital strengthens the relationship between UL’s School of Medicine and the surrounding community.

“Our favourite part of being involved with Teddy Bear Hospital is encouraging health education and confidence in the children of the Limerick community. It is extremely rewarding to see children's smiles and joy while exploring health topics in a creative and fun way, and their excitement as they work through the stations treating their teddies as patients for the day.”

UL’s four-year graduate entry medical programme is open to graduates from any discipline. It has a highly innovative curriculum which offers the opportunity to complete undergraduate medical training in four years in an environment specifically designed for graduate students.