Teddy Bear Clinic engages kindergartners


Kindergarten students from Freeport Public Schools brought their beloved stuffed animals and teddy bears to a special Teddy Bear Clinic April 28, hosted by Mount Sinai-South Nassau Hospital, where they got a taste of what it’s like to be part of the health care field.

The kindergartners who took part in the educational clinic, in the Bayview Avenue Elemtary School gymnasium, learned about hospital visits and medical procedures in a hands-on, interactive way. 

The clinic aimed to prepare the students for a visit to the hospital by introducing them to different medical stations, including a physical exam station, medical imaging, surgery, physical and respiratory therapy.

“At the Teddy Bear clinic, children bring their teddy bears to get examined and treated for respiratory problems, cast sutures, and receive physical therapy,” Nurse Practitioner Lynn Bert said. “When these kids later come to the hospital for treatment, they say things like, ‘Oh, I remember this or that from the Teddy Bear Clinic.’” 

Helen Kanellopolous, the assistant superintendent for pupil personnel services and special education, highlighted the importance of such an event in reducing the fear and anxiety that is often associated with hospital visits. 

“We are very fortunate to have a partnership with Mount Sinai,” Kanellopolous said. “The Teddy Bear Clinic models the experience of going to the hospital. Children take their teddy bear “patient” through several stations facilitated by health care professionals, from check-in through the operating room and into recovery. Going to the hospital can be a scary experience for children. The Teddy Bear Clinic prepares children should they ever need to go to the hospital, but in a fun, relaxed environment.” 

At each station, health care professionals from Mount Sinai-South Nassau Hospital explained their roles, instruments, and procedures to the students. The physical therapy station allowed students to hop on one foot and stretch with their teddy bears, while the physical exam station enabled them to listen to their teddy bears’ hearts and check their ears and eyes. 

“We perform all these different procedures on their teddy bears to show the children that it’s not painful or scary,” Nurse Brittany Hosford said. “They really know a lot more than I thought they would, they know how many bones they have and are aware of the importance of wearing protective gear like helmets and knee pads while riding bikes. They’re really into it.”  

Dana Silvester, a nurse at Mount Sinai-South Nassau Hospital, was in charge of the X-ray booth at the clinic. 

“At our booth, we have X-ray and casting equipment,” Silvester said. “Our goal is to educate children and reassure them that getting an X-ray or cast for a boo-boo or a broken bone is painless and not scary ­— it’s just like taking a picture and it’s not going to hurt you.”

The highlight of the clinic for many students was putting a cast on their teddy bears’ arms, ears, tails, legs, or hands at the medical imaging station.

“The teddy bear exam table is where children bring their teddy bears for a medical checkup, simulating a visit to the doctor’s office,” Annmarie Difransasca, child life specialist said. “Our team of nurses, PCTs, and child life specialists assist the children and demonstrate some of the medical tools used in the hospital to desensitize them and to make their hospital experience as well as their visits to the doctor a little bit easier, less stressful, and hopefully create good opportunities for kids to ask questions and not be so afraid.” 

The fun and educational event for the students allowed them to help their favorite stuffed animals get well. The Teddy Bear Clinic provided an interactive and engaging way to introduce young children to hospital procedures, and the lessons learned will likely stay with them for years to come.

“By bringing the Teddy Bear Clinic to all of our kindergarten students we can help alleviate the fear and anxiety that is often associated with a hospital visit,” Kanellopolous said. “While we do all we can to teach our students about safety and preventing injuries, accidents happen and having an awareness of what happens next through a hands-on experience is a wonderful learning experience.”