Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso (TTUHSC El Paso)’s Teddy Bear Clinic is branching out. In March, the mock health clinic for kids hit the road, taking its fun, educational activity to students in Van Horn, Texas.
Organized by the TTUHSC El Paso Area Health Education Center (AHEC), the Teddy Bear Clinic sparks kids’ interest in health care careers by having them take care of pretend patients: teddy bears. The event is traditionally held once a year at an El Paso high school, but this year, the center decided to add a second trip, extending the opportunity to kids living in the surrounding region.
“There aren’t a lot of educational programs that normally come to rural West Texas areas to introduce students to health care careers — it can be very isolating,” says Daniel Camacho, director of the AHEC at TTUHSC El Paso. “There also aren’t that many hospitals, nurses or doctors here; in fact, there’s a severe shortage of health care providers.”
By taking the Teddy Bear Clinic to Van Horn, Camacho hopes to inspire interest in the health care field at an early age. “Maybe, they could even return to Van Horn one day to help their hometown,” he adds.
About 30 Van Horn fifth graders participated in the interactive clinic. Each received a stethoscope and a teddy bear, and then took their “patient” through a variety of medical stations, giving them the opportunity to play the roles of doctor and nurse, take vital signs, conduct a dental checkup, and prescribe medications. TTUHSC El Paso volunteers manned the stations to teach the children about the various injuries or illnesses their bears may have. They then used real medical equipment to demonstrate how a doctor or nurse would handle the case in real life.
“Because our community is so small, our students aren’t always exposed to careers in the medical field,” says Sondra McCoy, the district counselor for Van Horn Schools. “This lets them learn about different opportunities out there in the world that they wouldn’t otherwise know about.”
McCoy looks forward to the Teddy Bear Clinic visiting in the future and working with even more students. She adds that the fifth graders were very receptive to the clinic: “Who wouldn’t love learning with teddy bears?”
This year’s El Paso Teddy Bear Clinic will be held May 19 at a local high school.
Photos by Tommie Morelos, Institutional Advancement.