USF Makes the Holidays Bear-a-Bull for Sick Children
The holidays may be just a bit happier for some children thanks to the USF College of Nursing’s B.E.A.R.S. program.
Participants in B.E.A.R.S., which stands for “Bulls Encouraging and Assisting Research and Scholarship,” handed out 500 teddy bears last year – and they topped that this year, delivering 800 bears to young people at six Tampa Bay area hospitals.
College of Nursing Dean Dianne Morrison-Beedy said part of the reason for the effort is to make the holidays a little brighter for sick children.
“It is the happiest time of the year for many children, but for those in the hospital, it’s a very difficult time. So having a bear—being remembered by a student nurse, by the university, by the partners—I think is really important to kids,” Morrison-Beedy said. “But it also provides students, and our friends and alum a chance to give service, to give back to the community.”
The bears are designed and donated by Christopher Davis and his company, MorLuv Scrubs, which also makes the nursing students’ uniforms. As a result, the tiny green and white scrubs the bears wear almost perfectly match those worn by the students—right down to the school patch on the sleeve.
In addition, the public can sponsor the delivery of a bear for $50 each or $500 for a basket of a dozen bears for an entire hospital floor. Most of that money goes to nursing scholarships and the college's research efforts.
“A lot of people forget the College of Nursing needs support in order for it to grow, to really produce the best quality nurses for here in the Tampa Bay region and the state of Florida,” Morrison-Beedy said.
Despite being in existence for about a year and a half, the B.E.A.R.S. program has been honored for its efforts, receiving the 2013 Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) Circle of Excellence Bronze Award for making a long-lasting impact in the community and helping transform health care and quality of life in the Tampa Bay region.
“A lot of our ideas, when we partner together and keep thinking about what we can do next, really have made a difference for the College of Nursing,” Morrison-Beedy said. “That it’s brought together our hospital partners, students, alum, and friends is huge.”
We joined some of those people as they delivered bears to Florida Hospital Tampa, which is located just across the street from USF’s Tampa campus.
“For me, it’s a great opportunity to go out into the community, show that the College of Nursing is there to help out, and that we’re there and we’re present in the community,” said Judith Noreau, who’s studying to become a pediatric nurse.
The 20-year-old Noreau added that it’s a great chance for her and fellow students to learn how to interact with patients—and not just on a clinical level.
“The book can’t teach you how to speak to a patient. Your patient varies, depending on the age,” Noreau said. "It can be an elderly person or it can be a brand new newborn baby, and they all react differently to how you respond to them, and so it’s not really something you can learn from a textbook, you have to get out there and feel what’s right—interact with the patient, individually personalize it to them."
Among the patients in the pediatrics unit receiving a bear was someone not too much younger than the students making the delivery. Krista Karlsen, an 18-year-old freshman at USF, was being treated for what doctors initially thought was meningitis. She was happy to get a fuzzy friend.
“It makes you happy. It brings your spirits up so that you’re not lying in bed all day, just wondering what to do with your life,” Karlsen said.
Karlsen, who’s considering studying medicine, also appreciated that it was her fellow students delivering the bear.
“I think it shows that they care a lot. They like want to show everyone how much love and dedication they have with all their patients,” she said.
Dean Morrison-Beedy agreed that it’s a wonderful experience for her students.
“Yeah, it’s one of those moments that, I think, sticks with students forever,” she said. “When they walk in with a bear, and deliver it to one of the patients, and that big smile comes across the patient’s face; it really connects with why they became a nurse in the first place.”
To see the B.E.A.R.S. program in action, with pictures of the bear deliveries from both 2012 and 2013, click here.