To help bring joy to those who have to be in the hospital as well as sharing happiness amongst colleagues, HSHS St. Anthony’s Memorial Hospital has launched a pet therapy program at the hospital in partnership with the Alliance of Therapy Dogs. On a weekly basis, certified therapy dogs and their handlers visit patients and colleagues at the hospital to spread joy.
Ashley Dillingham, manager of guest and volunteer services, coordinates the program for St. Anthony’s and explained why the hospital wanted to launch this program. “At St. Anthony’s, we not only focus on the physical well-being of our patients, but also on their emotional and spiritual health. We have long wanted to introduce pet therapy at St. Anthony’s as pets excel as therapeutic agents and dogs are an antidote to depressions. Studies have shown a decrease in both blood pressure and stress levels during therapy dog visits,” she explained.
Dillingham explained that the hospital has established guidelines and procedures in place addressing pet certification, hygiene practices, physician/patient consents, etc. to ensure safety and cleanliness of the visits. All dogs are screened and certified by the Alliance of Therapy Dogs.
A team of dogs and their handlers rotate on a regular weekly schedule at St. Anthony’s. Dillingham shared that when the program launched on May 5, there were seven handlers with eight dogs who are teaming with the hospital to visit on a regular basis. She hopes to expand the program even more in the future.
Dillingham has already seen the effect the dogs’ visits are having. “The dogs not only bless our patients but our staff as well,” she shared. “As we have been acclimating the dogs to our facility, our colleagues have really enjoyed ‘breaking them in!’ After the year we have all had, it is wonderful to see such joy on patients’ and colleagues’ faces,” she said.
Photo Caption #1: Bobbi Kinkelaar, chief nursing officer, and Sue Faber, laboratory manager, visit with Indy, a tri-colored Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, on Indy’s first acclimation visit to HSHS St. Anthony’s Memorial Hospital. HSHS St. Anthony’s recently launched a new pet therapy program at the hospital.
Photo Caption #2: Kierce Speagle, from St. Elmo, gets a visit from therapy dog Duke, a standard poodle, at HSHS St. Anthony’s Memorial Hospital. Not shown is Duke’s handler Leslie Croxell of Effingham.