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Kids Call the Shots at Teddy Bear Clinic

patient with her teddy bear

In celebration of Child Life Month, some lucky children took on the role of doctor at a Teddy Bear Clinic hosted by Shriners Children’s staff recently.

“Children have a lot of fear and anxiety around healthcare experiences, even a routine check-up, so Teddy Bear Clinics are fun, interactive opportunities to help kids be more comfortable,” Michelle Smith, child life specialist at Shriners Children’s Ohio, said.

The child’s favorite teddy bear or stuffed animal becomes the patient and Shriners Children’s staff guides the kids through simulated “checks.” Armed with a pretend medical chart, the tiny docs checked blood pressure, height, weight, lungs, heart and pulse.

“Most kids wholeheartedly took on the role of being their buddy’s doctor,” Sarah O’Neal, child life specialist at Shriners Children’s Ohio, explained. “They also loved being hands on with actual medical equipment.”

The Teddy Bear Clinic even reflected one of the hallmarks at Shriners Children’s: multidisciplinary, wrap-around approach to care.

staff at the teddy bear clinic

Shriners Children’s Ohio staff prepares for the Teddy Bear Clinic.


Nurses helped the children with checking vitals like blood pressure and pulse, while physical and occupational therapists explained how to check reflexes. Clinical dietitians reviewed healthy eating habits and child life specialists empowered the child doctors, and by extension, their caregivers, with coping techniques during shots.

“By incorporating various clinical disciplines, we were able to introduce families to a compassionate organization with a breadth of pediatric expertise,” Smith said.

The children left the clinic not only with more confidence, but also with their own play doctor kit, thanks to a grant secured by the Shriners Children’s philanthropy team.

O’Neal said reactions from both children and their families validated how important child life specialists are in setting a foundation of comfort in a healthcare setting.

“The kids started at varying levels of comfort and confidence, but they all accomplished every task,” O’Neal explained. “It was powerful to not only see the children’s transformation but also the ‘ah-ha’ moments from caregivers in reaction to our different coping techniques.”

Shriners Children’s is proud to provide child life specialists and recreational therapists for patients and their families to help reduce the stress associated with healthcare. The staff in our child life departments are trained professionals available to help you and your child have a positive experience during hospital stays and clinic visits. As members of your healthcare team, they work directly with your child to reduce anxiety and stress during medical procedures or hospitalization.

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