UL teddy bear hospital spreads ‘smiles and joy’ to over 700 primary school students

St Brigid's National School pupils Bailie, Ryan, and Chloe at the Teddy Bear Hospital. Photo: Alan Place.

THERE were smiles and joy enough to mend all wounds at the University of Limerick (UL) last week when the doctors of the future treated fluffy patients at the university’s Teddy Bear Hospital.

Over 700 primary school students from across the city and county had the opportunity to interact with students from UL’s School of Medicine 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, allowing students to learn through role play.

The experience also allows children to experience the atmosphere of a healthcare setting without the anxiety of being patients themselves, and helps to alleviate anxiety around hospitals and doctors.

Among the 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.

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Second-year medical student at UL, Amrit Dhindsa, said that participating in last year’s event, she was given 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 said that her favourite part of being involved with the community initiative was “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.”