Animals can be an amazing source of comfort and healing for patients dealing with critical illness, and can give staff members a much-needed boost, too. This was the motivation behind UW Medical Center's new pet therapy programs, Paws for Patients and Stop & Paws, a new drop-in program for staff.
In Paws for Patients, a registered pet therapy dog visits patients along with a trained volunteer. Studies show that pet therapy can be greatly beneficial for individuals undergoing treatment or procedures, and that it reduces anxiety, fear and stress. Pet therapy can also improve recovery time and creates a patient-centered, therapeutic environment.
"For patients, the pure joy and love of a therapy dog helps humanize their inpatient experience and provides a calming and familiar interaction that is proven to decrease stress, regulate breathing and lower blood pressure," says Cynnie Foss, UW Medical Center's volunteer program manager, who started the programs along with Renee Paquet, nurse manager of UW Medical Center's 5 Southeast unit.
Foss and her dog Oly also have become a registered Pet Partners pet therapy team and run the Stop & Paws staff program. Foss says that a therapy dog visit provides a moment of levity and solace for staff during their often hectic and stressful days. "Healthcare is such a stressful and serious profession, and being given a moment to pet a goofy, loving Labrador like Oly immediately alleviates stress and brings happiness into the workplace. People who spend this one minute with Oly tell me it's ‘just what they needed." Oly and Cynnie have provided more than 700 pet therapy interactions since April alone.
Check out the gallery below to see therapy dogs Mason and Oly hanging out with patients and staff.
Want to support UW Medical Center's pet therapy programs? Donate here.