Archive March 2018 XIX, No. 3

Ideas That Work: Ruff Recovery

What If a Patient Brings Her Service Dog?

Service Dog
COMFORT Service dogs are a necessary part of many patients' lives and can be an enormous help in the recovery room.

When a patient brought a service dog to our surgical center a while back, we weren't quite sure how to handle it. Here's what we learned.

  • Is it a service dog? For starters, find out if the dog is a service animal. You're required by law to let a patient in need bring a service dog to your facility. Service dogs are able to go wherever the public goes, including, in some cases, the recovery area. Therapy, emotional support and companion dogs, however, are not permitted in public places.
  • What does the dog do? Service dogs have very specific training. Legally, you can ask your patient if the dog is required because of a disability and if so, what task the dog is trained to perform for the patient. You cannot ask for documentation of training or require they wear a vest.
  • Be considerate of your patients. Any animal in a center open to the public can make other patients wary. Sometimes it can even be disruptive if the animal is poorly behaved. If we know a patient is bringing a service animal, we try to schedule that patient at the end of the day in order to be respectful of other patients (and staff) who might have allergies or a fear of dogs.

Ann Shoemaker, MSN, RN
River Road Surgery Center (Md.)


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