Archive May 2019 XX, No. 5

Ideas That Work: Canine Cure-All

Meet Lulu, the Pet Therapy Dog.

PET PERKS
WellSpan Health
PET PERKS Lulu, the pet therapy dog at WellSpan Health in York, Pa.

Whether you’re looking to relieve the pre-procedure anxiety of your patients or to help your staff through trying or stressful times, consider adding a furry four-legged friend to your staff.

We rely on Lulu, a 5-year-old golden retriever-labradoodle mix who is a registered pet therapy animal, to quell a good amount of the anxiety that is common in many people who undergo any type of surgical procedure. After getting explicit permission from patients on days she visits our facility, Lulu spends time with both pre-op and post-op patients — outside of restricted and semi-restricted areas — and the benefits of these interactions are many. She helps with everything from reducing anxiety (pre- and even post-op), offering a diversion (patients tend to forget about their upcoming or even delayed procedures when they’re petting Lulu) and companionship. You wouldn’t believe what a comfort a pet therapy dog is for patients who are also dog owners. And this may just be the tip of the iceberg. We’re currently researching whether there’s any direct correlation between pet therapy, decreased cortisol levels and faster healing.

Of course, patients aren’t the only ones who benefit. When our facility lost a staff member to tragedy, Lulu was an invaluable source of emotional support for our folks. Since coming on board, she’s become a beloved member of our work family and a constant morale-booster.

If you’re thinking about using a pet therapy dog at your facility, there are some things you should keep in mind. First, you’ll want to make sure the animal is certified by a reputable national therapy dog registration/certification organization. The American Kennel Club offers a comprehensive list of organizations here: osmag.net/SFXza2. You’ll also want to make sure you have clear policies in place to dictate exactly how the pet therapy will operate at your facility, with careful attention to little, often-overlooked details. Example: Do you have a dedicated spot the therapy dog can stay between patient visits that’s away from the workflow? Last but not least, you’ll always want to be respectful of patients and fellow staff members. Remember: Not everybody loves dogs!

Angela Uhler, MSN, RN, CNOR, NE-BC
WellSpan Health
York, Pa.
auhler@wellspan.org

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