Medical students’ experience of a Teddy Bear Hospital as part of a paediatric curriculum


  • Lilly Nheu The University of Melbourne, Australia
  • Wonie Uahwatanasakul Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne, Australia The University of Melbourne
  • Amy Gray Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne, Australia The University of Melbourne



medical education, Teddy Bear Hospital, medical students, paediatrics, learning, communication skills


Introduction: Teddy Bear Hospital is a strategy used to help reduce children’s fears of the healthcare system and teach them about health-related issues. It involves mock consultations where medical students play the role of a “teddy doctor” and children act as the carer of teddy, or another soft toy, requiring consultation. This provides medical students with the opportunity to interact with children and develop communication skills while children are introduced to the medical consultation process. The aim of this study was to evaluate the medical student experience of Teddy Bear Hospital as part of a paediatric curriculum.

Methods: We conducted a qualitative observational study using observations and focus group interviews with third-year postgraduate medical students. Strategies for engaging children and medical student behaviours were observed. In focus groups, students discussed their experience and the benefits of involvement they perceive. Inductive content analysis was performed, guided by a phenomenological approach, to identify themes.

Results: Three major themes were identified: student discomfort, adapting communication to child temperament and developmental age and how the Teddy Bear Hospital contextimpacts learning. Students experienced discomfort approaching families and through disclosure of medical information. Despite this, students described it as an enjoyable learning experience that taught them to adapt communication to the child. Students also recognised greater challenges in a hospital-based event than one in the community.

Conclusions: Participation in Teddy Bear Hospital appears to be a valuable component of the paediatric curriculum for medical students. Through enjoyable experiential learning, students described developing important communication skills with children. While they did experience discomfort in the process, this has potential to deepen learning. 

Author Biographies

Lilly Nheu, The University of Melbourne, Australia

Lilly Nheu, BSci, MD, is a junior doctor who completed her medical school training at The University of Melbourne. She has interests in paediatrics, clinical teaching and general practice

Wonie Uahwatanasakul, Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne, Australia The University of Melbourne

Wonie Uahwatanasakul, MBBS, FRACP, MPHTM, GradDipClinEd, is a general paediatrician and coordinates the MD Child and Adolescent health program at The University of Melbourne as well as the Paediatic Clinical Teaching Fellow Program at the Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne. 

Amy Gray, Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne, Australia The University of Melbourne

Amy Gray, MBBS, FRACP, PhD, GradDipClinEd, BMedSc, is a general paediatrician at the Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne and senior lecturer at the University of Melbourne. She also has ongoing collaborations with the Lao Paediatric Association, the Ministry of Health and University of Health Sciences and World Health Organisation. 


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How to Cite

Nheu, L., Uahwatanasakul, W., & Gray, A. (2018). Medical students’ experience of a Teddy Bear Hospital as part of a paediatric curriculum. Focus on Health Professional Education: A Multi-Professional Journal, 19(3), 40–51.