Children find their voices through dolls, bears
May 3, 2012
Can't get little Suzie to talk about what's bothering her? Ask what's wrong with Mr. Bear.
During the last week of April -- in recognition of the Month of the Military Child -- William Beaumont Army Medical Center Army Public Health nurses traveled to Fort Bliss Children, Youth and School-age Services facilities listening as children relayed their stories of their ill-stricken fuzzy friends.
From a bear with a stomach ache because he ate a tiger to a dragon with a fiery cough, the tales of the not-so-common patients were enough to raise eyebrows of even the least skeptical of medical staff.
But Cassandra Salas didn't flinch as 4-year-old Adriana Class slung her patient onto the examining room table at the Logan Child Development Center.
The small buffalo lay there motionless as Salas, community health educator with the APHN Department of Preventive Medicine, went to work. A faux shot and a small Band-Aid later, the buffalo was given a clean bill of health.
"The children will come in saying their toys have an upset tummy or hurt feelings -- all symptoms the children have associated with their stuffed animals," Salas said.
"The Teddy Bear Clinic is all about getting them used to going to the doctor and going to the pediatrician. It's all about getting the children to see doctors as people there to help them feel better."
Medical play is a widely used practice among children's hospitals to acquaint the youngest patients with the medical environment. From infants to adolescents, patients often respond tight-lipped to the simple question "tell me where it hurts?" when posed from a stranger clad in scrubs and a stethoscope.
Through stuffed animals, Salas said, children often find a voice.
Breaking this doctor-patient barrier is important, said Lt. Col. Elizabeth Miller, chief of Army Public Health Nursing at William Beaumont Army Medical Center.
"It's about not having that fear of going to the doctor when children are going for different preventive health reasons," Miller said.
Talking to children about seat belt wear, immunizations, healthy diets, importance of sunscreen and even proper use of sporting equipment all fall within the realm of preventive health measures.
Having an open communication with medical staff "helps to prevent injuries and the development of diseases," Miller said.