Therapy Dogs Bring Comfort To Patients At Essentia Health
Essentia Health St. Joseph Medical Center in Brainerd has developed a program bringing therapy dogs to patients to make them feel at ease and more at home.
According to Therapy Dog International, the optimism and happiness a therapy dog visit can bring to a patient in the hospital cannot be measured by a doctor’s instruments, but it can make all the difference in the world.
“Peyton is a therapy dog here at the hospital. We try to come in weekly and visit with the different patients and try to make them have a smile for the day,” said Kathleen Meyer, Peyton’s owner.
The program at Essentia Health in Brainerd has done just that.
“Usually about once a week, they’ll come around in our unit and go room to room and see all the patients and hangout with them for a few minutes to a half an hour each visit,” explained Jenny Diederich, who is an RN in the Oncology Unit at Essentia Health in Brainerd.
The certified therapy dogs visit patients throughout the hospital, making people feel comforted and at ease.
Peyton is a five and a half-year-old Havanese who has been doing therapy work for three and a half years. “It’s great. It’s fun to do. I got the idea when my husband was in hospice and somebody came in everyday with a dog, and then later on when I got Payton, I realized I had just this great personality in a dog,” added Meyer.
In order to be certified as a therapy dog, the owner and dog must go through a series of classes and pass a certification test.
“It’s strenuous. The test is strenuous and you’ve got to have a dog that has the personality for it. You can’t – I don’t think you can take every dog and make them a therapy dog,” said Meyer. “I think you can train them, but I don’t think you can put that personality in them.”
The nurses and doctors at Essentia Health have seen an immense benefit to having the therapy dogs visit the hospital.
“When the therapy dogs come on our unit you can see the patients light up. They are very happy to see a dog come in and they pet them and it seems to calm their mood, and a lot of people have animals so they make them feel like they’re at home,” said Diederich.
The program has been a success, and Essentia hopes that therapy dogs like Peyton can keep lifting spirits and providing comfort to patients for years to come.
According to the Mayo Clinic, animal-assisted therapy is a growing trend with more and more hospitals adopting similar programs.