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Teddy Bears' Hospital: Taking the fear out of visits to the doctor or hospital

(Vienna, 30 November 2015) Teddy bears, dolls and other stuffed animals and cuddly toys in the operating theatre, at the dentists, having x-rays, having their wounds dressed or in the CT scanner: the aim of the "Teddy Bears' Hospital" project is to take the fear out of doctor's appointments or hospital stays for children. It will run for the 15th time on 8 December 2015 (Vienna Medical Association, 9:00 – 16:00 hours, Weihburggasse 10-12, 1010 Vienna). The Teddy Bears' Hospital is suitable for kids aged between 4 and 8 years. Admission is free and you need to allow around one hour for the visit.

The Teddy Bears' Hospital project is a joint initiative between the Austrian Medical Students' Association (AMSA), the Medical University of Vienna, the Vienna Medical Association, the Academic Association of Austrian Pharmacists and the Workers' Samaritan Organization (ASB). The children and their cuddly toys are treated by around 50 teddy bear doctors – who are really students from MedUni Vienna. The procedure for treating the "injured" animals and dolls mimics the reality of a hospital – from admission through to discharge.

"The Teddy Bears' Hospital has now become a regular institution at our university and it receives a high level of commitment from our medical students," says Anita Rieder, Vice Rector for Education of the Medical University of Vienna. “Children are able to learn about the often complex procedures in a hospital in a playful and fun way so that, when they really have to visit a hospital, they can use their positive experiences as a resource and be much more relaxed about what goes on there. This not only helps the children but also their parents and the doctors treating them." 

"By accompanying their teddy and helping to treat it, they learn at a safe distance about what can happen and see that, in most cases, visiting the doctor is not nearly as bad as they had feared," say Bert Engelhardt and Silvana Neumann of the Austrian Medical Students' Association (AMSA). These two head up the organizing team for the Teddy Bears' Hospital.

The stuffed animals and their "carer" first of all go into the waiting room and then, depending upon the nature of their complaint, they are referred to the appropriate “ward”, where they are examined. On admission, the details of the soft toy or doll are recorded (“How tall?", "How heavy?") and their medical history is taken. They then go on to diagnostics. The hospital has an ECG for measuring heart rate, an x-ray unit, a dental clinic, a first-aid station and a CT scanner. "Surrogate cuddly toys" are provided in the operating theatres and these can be opened up and then sewn up again. Finally the cuddly toys are bandaged. Surrogate toys are also available for children who just drop into the Vienna Medical Association on the spur of the moment. Not only do the children accompany their favourite toy but they also play an active role in its treatment, as assistant to the treating physician.

There is also an opportunity to see inside an emergency ambulance staffed by the Workers' Samaritan Organization (ASB) and parked outside the venue in Weihburggasse. The ASB also mans the first-aid station in the Teddy Bears' Hospital.

Event: Teddy Bears' Hospital 2015
8 December 2015 (9.00-16.00 hrs., admission free – for children aged between 4 and 8 years, no booking necessary for individuals, for group bookings please go to teddy-wien@amsa.at), Vienna Medical Association, Weihburggasse 10-12, 1010 Vienna. You are kindly requested to bring slippers or trainers with you.