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USNH Naples Hosts 3rd Annual Teddy Bear Health Clinic

Naples area community kids participated in the third annual Teddy Bear Health Clinic. During the Teddy Bear Health Clinic, children received a teddy bear and then went from station to station making sure their new friend was healthy. The bears received patient identification bracelets, had their blood pressure taken, their hearts listened to, their hearing tested, and even experienced an x-ray. The goal was to introduce children to different departments in the hospital and help alleviate any anxiety during future appointments or potential hospital stays.

Story by Christina Clarke

Naval Hospital – Naples  

A slight chill in the air on Saturday did not stop over 175 Naples community kids and their parents from coming out to Carney Park to participate in the third annual Teddy Bear Health Clinic.  

“After just two hours we had already gone through six boxes of teddy bears,” says Monica Schutt, Health Promotion and Wellness Manager at U.S. Naval Hospital (USNH) Naples. “It’s so fun to walk through the clinic and watch our Corpsmen teach the kids what they do at the hospital.”  

The concept of the clinic is simple yet impactful; children receive a plush teddy bear, give the bear a name, and then have their new friend checked into the healthcare clinic. From there, the child and teddy bear move throughout different stations which mimic care typically received at the hospital: having vitals taken, filling prescriptions, getting an x-ray, and even visiting the orthopedic team to repair a broken arm.  

The goal is to introduce children to different departments and help alleviate any anxiety during future appointments or potential hospital stays. While each station presents medical information in an entertaining and interactive way, the mimicked care for the bears translates to real care that many children experience.  

“We see pediatric patients in the main operating room and I think this event really does help if they ever do need surgery,” says Hospitalman Antonio Perez. “I tell them that their bear is going to take a super relaxing nap and when he wakes up, he will feel so much better. Surgery can be scary for anybody, especially kids.”  

Anxiety or stress before a visit to the doctor’s office is not uncommon, even in adults. A recent study posted to the journal Hypertension found that 15 to 30 percent of people with elevated blood pressure could have been affected by white coat hypertension, commonly known as white coat syndrome. For some, elevated blood pressure develops when around doctors or in medical settings. The Teddy Bear Health Clinic aims to mitigate any anxiety that could be associated with visiting the doctor, enhance prevention knowledge, and promote health and wellness.  

The Teddy Bear Health Clinic has become a notable event for the hospital since it first began in 2017. In fact, the first iteration of the event was so popular it won USNH Naples the Naval Education and Training Command’s (NETC) 2017 Community Service Health, Safety, and Fitness Flagship Award for a large overseas command.  

“The transient nature of the military community actually really helps make this a success,” says Schutt. “There are always going to be new kids and parents arriving to Naples so if we can introduce them to the hospital each year in an enjoyable way, that’s going to help down the road.”  

The Teddy Bear Health Clinic is made possible by strong community partnerships with Naples Child and Youth Programs (CYP), Fleet and Family Support Center, and the American Red Cross. Naples CYP generously provides the hundreds of teddy bears that help facilitate this interactive educational event. USNH Naples extends a hearty thank you for the support of its partners and volunteers who make this event possible.

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