Thrive by IU Health

April 29, 2021

Program brings smiles to kids’ faces one bear at a time

IU Health Tipton Hospital

Program brings smiles to kids’ faces one bear at a time

Patricia Harris, clinical operations manager for IU Health Tipton Hospital’s Surgical Services, Endoscopy and Emergency Departments, helped implement the hospital’s Bears for Kids Program several years ago. The team was brainstorming ideas to enhance the experience of pediatric dental patients, and the idea came about to help ease the surgery stress for children by gifting them a stuffed animal to hold during their visit.

By Thi Pham, Communications Intern, IU Health Indianapolis Suburban Region,tpham5@IUHEALTH.ORG

“Having surgery is a very scary thing for these little people,” Harris said, who has three sons and seven grandchildren. “We felt providing them with a stuffed animal would help ease the stress of the unknown for them. They could hang on to this stuffed bear or animal throughout their entire experience.”

While the program started for pediatric patients receiving dental surgery, it has since expanded to pediatric patients seen in the Emergency Department thanks to a $2,500 grant from the IU Health Foundation, which is used to purchase the stuffed animals.

Harris says the funding allows the team to make often uneasy moments for kids a little more comfortable. They’ve also expanded the program beyond bears, now offering an assortment of animals including monkeys, bunnies, alligators, donkeys, frogs and pandas. The children can pick their favorite out of this assortment.

“The team is always appreciative of the funding from the IU Health Foundation,” she said. “They have fun with the pediatric patients when helping them picked out their animal of choice.”

The smile on the patient’s face is always the best reward.

“Knowing that we made them smile and gave them some comfort during a scary time is always rewarding.”