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Cheryl Critchley
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Unwell teddies, dolls, stuffed animals and maybe even a toy dragon will gather in the city on Good Friday at the annual Teddy Bear Hospital, where a new pathology lab will test for “teddy germs”.

More than 1200 University of Melbourne students will run the “hospital” in the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre to raise funds for the annual Royal Children’s Hospital Good Friday appeal.

Whether Teddy has a temperature or Barbie a broken toe, volunteers will treat them professionally and in doing so help reduce children’s fear of medical environments, procedures and professionals in a fun, relaxed and interactive manner.

No ailment is off limits in Teddy Triage. Medical student Paul remembers a four-year old boy whose toy dragon had stopped breathing fire. With little experience in dragon medicine, Paul was a little stumped.

But after inspecting the dragon’s throat and a feeling its neck, he diagnosed a cold. A good night’s sleep and lots of rest saw Dragon return to his fire-breathing best.

Such interactions allow future doctors and health care professionals like Paul to develop the communication and engagement skills that are so important when interacting with children.

The “hospital” activities and equipment are built, designed and manned by student volunteers from medicine, nursing, dentistry, physiotherapy, audiology, biomedical, science, speech pathology and social work. Children can bring a sick teddy or toy to many stations, including Teddy Triage, doctor consultation, radiology, surgery or anatomy.

This year a new Teddy Pathology Lab will also mimic a laboratory looking for nasty teddy germs. Children will learn to use the teddy microscopes and teddy centrifuge to help them identify germs that can inhabit their poor toy. 

“Health professionals” will work with more than 5000 children on the day, making it the university’s largest student volunteer event for the fourth year in a row. Stevenson Chair of Paediatrics and Head of Melbourne Medical School’s Department of Paediatrics, Professor Cheryl Jones, said students learned so much more when working as a team.

“The Teddy Professors from the University’s Department of Paediatrics, who oversee this student led program, are amazed at the passion and creativity of the students as they work together to create the toy machines and instruments for the day, and plan and execute this major event,” Professor Jones said.

“Apart from the fun and fundraising, our students learn more about each other’s multidisciplinary roles and provide practical advice to children and families about how to keep healthy and reduce children’s anxiety about medical environments, procedures and professionals. We are very proud to watch this group of students as they are our future health leaders.”

Teddy Bear Hospital: Friday 30 March, 2018, Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, Level 2 from 10 am to 5 pm Last entry at 4.30pm. Visits cost $5 per child or $10 per family.