Health Team

Teddy Bear Clinic Helps to Ease Children's Anxiety

Posted January 15, 2007 4:05 p.m. EST
Updated January 15, 2007 7:00 p.m. EST

— For a young child, a hospital or doctor's office can be a scary place. That fear can make it difficult for parents and doctors to give the child the medical care they need. A special clinic makes the anxiety melt away.

For one day, a room at Raleigh's Play Space was filled with boo boos -- injuries that need stitches, bandages and tender loving care. At WakeMed's annual Teddy Bear Clinic, children got a chance to play the doctors and nurses.

"At Play Space, we believe that children learn through play and that they have a lot of fun going through role playing and acting out," said Mary Evans, Play Space educational director.

Children often become very anxious about a trip to the doctor's office, but coming to a fun and friendly environment like Play Space breaks down the barrier of fear, so children can learn that doctors and nurses are to be trusted.

Jason Abenhaim, 3, was at the doctor the day before his visit to the Teddy Bear clinic. He has asthma and had blood drawn to test for an allergy to nuts. Audrey Abenheim, Jason's mother, said he was very upset, but at the Teddy Bear clinic, he's in charge.

"I think it's very important for them to feel like they can go to the doctor. The doctor is their friend," she said.

In one corner of the clinic, WakeMed education specialist Debbi Hillman teaches kids how to avoid doctor or hospital visits by playing it safe. Many emergency department visits are from accidents like falls from a bicycle or on the playground.

Hillman said she uses a variety of teddy bears to teach them about wearing helmets when riding bikes or skating and keeping away from pots on the stove.

Adults can also benefit with the special clinic. A message about keeping household cleaners and other poisons out of reach is aimed directly at parents who bring their child.