When Lawnwood Regional Medical Center & Heart Institute in Fort Pierce, FL. prepared to open its new Pediatric ICU, officials knew they wanted parents and children to see all the services that would be offered. Trouble is, they didn’t want to scare the children as they walked through what can be an intimidating place.

Enter the teddy bear clinic idea. More than 1,600 parents and children took part in an open house that doubled as a learning experience for children. Those who attended were given a teddy bear, and then were asked to take their bear around to the doctors and nurses who could explain what each piece of equipment did, and how it could make the bear feel better.

Over the course of their visit, the children and their parents learned about radiology, the emergency room and more in the six-room, $2.2 million PICU wing, which began treating patients last March and is the first of its kind in the area. In addition to its unique equipment, the PCIU also has a full-time specialist, Dr. Ivanelsie Delgado, devoted to pediatric critical care.

The unit, which deals with a variety of childhood illnesses, features calming colors and an island theme, designed to help allay the fears that already sick children have when they come to the hospital. And because it’s here, the children and their families don’t have the added stress of receiving a diagnosis, and then having to be moved to another facility out of the area for treatment.

“It’s not just the stress of the illness or condition, but the stress of moving,” Delgado says. “Children respond to treatment in a different way than adults do, and with children, you often have to work with the whole family.”