St. Joseph's and Advocate BroMenn Medical Center are joining a growing trend within the medical world – allowing staff to bring in pets for residents and employees to enjoy.
People are realizing how therapy dogs take away pain and stress by diverting attention from ailments to the dogs. Visits from therapy dogs can decrease loneliness and boost a patient's mood, which in turn lowers blood pressure, improves cardiovascular functions and less pain medication.
St. Joseph's program, Karing Partners, informally started in 2002 and became a formal program in 2010. Since then it has expanded to most of the hospital units.
Advocate BroMenn's program, Hound Rounds, started in 2008 at Adult Day Services and made its expansion throughout the hospital in 2010.
While the dogs are there, there are exceptions and precautions taken. The dogs are not allowed in the intensive care unit, along with anywhere there is food, medication preparation areas, sterile areas, labor and delivery or operating rooms. For the dogs to be approved as hospital volunteers, they must be calm, up to date with vaccinations, have graduated from obedience training and certified as therapy dogs through Therapy Dogs International, the Alliance of Therapy Dogs or Pet Partners.
The programs have seen good response and good numbers – Karing Partners did more than 3,400 vists in the fiscal year of 2014-2015, and BroMenn has 18 therapy dogs with 12 handlers.
"It diverts attention from everyone's pain. It totally gets their minds in a happy place," Sue Seibring, Advocate BroMenn manager of volunteer services, said.