Monday, October 22 , 2018, 1:22 am | Fair 63º

 
 
 
 

Dignity Health of Central Coast Expands Pet Therapy Program

Dignity Health of the Central Coast, which includes Arroyo Grande Community Hospital, French Hospital Medical Center and Marian Regional Medical Center is excited to announce its expanded Pet Therapy program designed to aid in the healing of patients.

Animal assisted therapy is a type of therapy that involves animals in the healing process. Studies show that the presence of animals has a positive effect on human physiology and reduces feelings of stress and anxiety. Among the specific benefits of pet therapy are the ways it motivates patients to participate in physical, occupational or speech therapy, by assisting the patient to handle discomfort or pain. The non-stressful interaction with the pets also improves patients’ interactions with family and staff. Currently, only dogs are included in the program.

Individual bedside visits can be requested by the patient, the patient's doctor, nurse, therapist or a family member. There is an animal visit liaison at each facility who helps coordinate visits. Visits can occur at various times during the weekday, evening and weekend. Pet therapy volunteers encourage affection with the dogs, as they are for “hugging and petting” and are not considered service dogs.

The volunteer therapy animals and handlers are trained and nationally-certified. Volunteers serving in the pet therapy program receive in-depth training about hospital infection control practices and strict hand-hygiene measures are enforced to ensure cleanliness and adhere to regulations. Participating dogs are required to have up-to-date vaccinations and are bathed 24 hours prior to visiting. Ongoing assessments of the dog’s health and behavioral status are vital to maintaining a safe and sanitized environment for the patients, animals and staff. The therapy dogs are selected for their unique personalities and ability to interact with a variety of patient personalities. Pet therapy dogs are also identified with volunteer hospital identification badges to denote their affiliation with the program.

Judy Hoffman, director of Respiratory Services at MRMC and Pet Therapy Committee chairwoman, welcomes the program and its benefits.

“Research has shown Pet Therapy in hospitals has added healing value and emotional well being for patients, visitors and staff by lowering blood pressure, decreasing pain and anxiety and providing emotional comfort," she said. "We are very excited to be able to now provide this meaningful therapy option to our patients, visitors and staff at all of our hospitals.”

Dignity Health of the Central Coast continually incorporates therapeutic and rehabilitative methods to serve its patients and foster an environment of healing.

For more information, call Hoffman (MRMC) at 805.739.3774, Jan Koester (AGCH) at 805.994.5462 or Jill Urmy (FHMC) at 805.542.6267.

— Sara San Juan is a marketing specialist for Dignity Health of the Central Coast.

 

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