Doctors, nurses, and other human healthcare workers at British Columbia Children’s Hospital can now benefit from on-the-job support from man’s best friend.
In partnership with PetSmart Charities of Canada, BC Children’s Hospital Foundation has launched a pet therapy program specifically designed to help hospital staff cope with stress, anxiety, and work-related health issues.
The program offers monthly staff wellness group events and supports resiliency rounds for nurses on in-patient floors. Each visit allows opportunities for staff to pet the therapy dogs, which have been certified by St. John’s Ambulance and BC Pets and Friends, and take a mental break from the busyness of their day.
“As the pandemic landscape continues to evolve, our healthcare workers have pivoted and adapted accordingly to ensure B.C.’s sickest and most seriously injured children continue to receive excellent care,” says Malcolm Berry, president and CEO of the BC Children’s Hospital Foundation. “When our dedicated hospital staff are taking their breaks during their shifts, the therapy dogs provide a healthy and peaceful healing environment, and a much-needed distraction for care workers during their busy day.”
The program seems to have a positive effect on the mental health and wellness of the hospital’s staff, PetSmart Charities of Canada reports.
“When the pet therapy dogs greet me during my workday, I immediately feel my shoulders relax and I can’t help but smile,” says Kelsey McCormick, a clinical resource nurse at BC Children’s Hospital. “After visiting with the therapy dogs, I feel calmer and more equipped to deal with the tasks at hand. I become more patient, my thinking becomes clearer, and I feel like I am a better communicator.”
“This is a specialized program specifically tailored to meet the unique needs of B.C.’s top healthcare staff and assist in alleviating some of the stress and anxiety they experience on a regular basis,” adds program co-ordinator, Lisa Knight. “Pet therapy can also improve energy levels, self-esteem, and verbal communication skills.”
Across the nation, PetSmart Charities of Canada has granted nearly $700,000 to support animal-assisted therapy programs.
“It is wonderful to see BC Children’s Hospital Foundation being proactive and looking for ways to provide useful tools, activities, and programs for their healthcare workers to engage in that help reduce their stress levels,” says PetSmart Charities of Canada’s director of community grants, Kate Atema.