MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The first trip to a healthcare professional can be a scary experience for a child, especially if the visit is the first time she or he will remember receiving a vaccination and are unsure of what to expect. Student pharmacists from the West Virginia University School of Pharmacy held an activity at Parents’ Place to show children that healthcare professionals are there to help them stay healthy and that there is nothing to fear.
The student pharmacists hosted a Teddy Bear Clinic for the children from 10 a.m. to noon on Friday, Feb. 13 at Parents’ Place, which operates out of the Morgantown Church of the Brethren. Parents’ Place is an education and support program for children ages one to five and their parents.
Children participating in the activity received a teddy bear as their “patient” at the pharmacy. The student pharmacists spoke with the children and their parents about the importance of immunizations. Children gave their teddy bear patients a pretend shot using clean, empty, needle-free syringes to show them what will happen when they need to be immunized and ensure they feel comfortable about the immunization process.
“We want children to have a good impression of healthcare providers,” Emily Bower, a second-year student pharmacist from Beckley, W.Va., said. “At this age, children have fears of healthcare professionals, and we want to eliminate this as much as possible.”
The student pharmacists also educated the children about the overall care of their patient and showed the children how to listen to their teddy bears’ hearts using stethoscopes. The children practiced on the teddy bears, but the student pharmacists allowed the children to listen to the students’ hearts so they have an understanding of what they heard.
During the second portion of the activity, the WVU student pharmacists taught the children about making healthy food choices. Children received bean bags with pictures of food on them, and then, depending on the image, they chose whether to toss the bag into the healthy food circle or the unhealthy food circle.
“Nutrition is very important at this time in their lives, and we want to help the children understand the difference between unhealthy and healthy foods, as well as understand the importance of eating healthy,” Bower said.
The Teddy Bear Clinic is one activity in a four-week project the students developed for the parents and children of Parents’ Place. In the three remaining activities, the students will work with parents on medication information resources and finding reliable information for their health concerns, medication dosing and brand vs. generic medications, and immunizations.
“By working with parents on these specific topics, we hope to educate them not only on taking care of their own health concerns but the health concerns of their children,” Bower said. “If their child is ill, the first thing parents may do is go to the Internet. We want to show parents how to look for reliable information and reinforce to always speak with a healthcare professional. We also want to educate parents on the importance of properly administering medication to their children, what to look for in an over-the-counter medication, and staying on course with an immunization schedule for their child. Because parents have the say in their child’s health decisions, we hope that by educating the parents, the best decisions will be made for each child.”
Photo caption: Second-year student pharmacist Emily Bower of Beckley explains to Parents' Place participant Riley Titus of Morgantown how a stethoscope is used to listen to the heart.