Pet Therapy Program Debuts at SRMC

Linda and Abby. Eric and Oscar. Dara and Daisy Lou. The newest members of the healing team at Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center are not doctors or nurses, but they have an amazing track record of making people feel better. They offer no shots or medications, but they’ve been widely lauded for their healing powers. They’re not your typical caregivers; in fact, half of them have more than two legs.

Since early June, these dynamic duos have been visiting inpatients in the hospital, offering therapeutic visits and canine companionship as part of SRMC’s new pet therapy program. From the outset, they have been the brightest of the bright spots in the day of many hospital patients, providing a comfort of home while being in the hands of skilled medical staff. Abby and Oscar, both certified greyhounds, and Daisy Lou, a certified coon hound, have quickly become one of the most well received visitors to step on the unit.

“From the inception of SRMC, we set out with the goal of utilizing many proven methods of patient satisfaction and pain reduction,” said Nancy Littlefield, Chief Nursing Officer of SRMC. “Pet therapy is a perfect addition to our existing benefits, such as 24-hour visiting hours, uplifting colors and pictures in our care areas and private rooms for all patients. The feedback we have received from patients thus far indicates that they appreciate these healing touches and believe it relieves some of the natural anxiety of being in a hospital.”

Long in the plans for the growing hospital, the implementation of the pet therapy program was accelerated based on the requests of patients and the interests of dog owners in the community. Ironically, the first ever pet therapy visit at SRMC occurred on the facility’s first birthday, June 7, 2010. By the end of June, Linda, Eric, Dara and their pets had visited the hospital seven times, with more visits expected in July.

“Research has shown that the presence of a dog can lower blood pressure, reduce pain and contribute to a longer lifespan,” added Littlefield. “However, no paper study can accurately capture the euphoric reaction many of our patients give when offered a visit from one of our wonderful pet therapy teams. You can actually feel the energy in the room increase, a positive development that carries forward for hours after the dog and the handler have departed. We greatly thank the teams for what they have done and will continue to do for our patients.”

SRMC is eagerly looking for additional therapy dogs and handlers to join our growing team. If you have a certified therapy dog, a caring nature and a dedication to satisfying patients, you and your four-legged friend may be a valuable part of our healing crew. After attending a volunteer training, pet handlers are asked to make at least two scheduled hour-long visits to the hospital each month. For information on how to join the Pet Therapy program, please call Rob Toonkel at 540-498-4142.

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