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Therapy dogs helping health-care workers decompress at B.C. hospital

For many years, specially trained therapy animals have been visiting sick patients at BC Children’s Hospital. Now those dogs are also making the rounds to visit with frontline care staff.

Clinical resource nurse Kelsey McCormick says it’s a great way for care providers to decompress during a stressful work day, and good practice for dogs that are in training to work with children.

“They’re not quite ready to meet with patients and the kids yet, but meeting with us gives them exposure to the unit and the sounds and smells, so it’s kind of a win-win all around,” said McCormick.

While it may seem like a simple staff perk to have the occasional canine cuddle during a long shift, the visits are actually part of the hospital’s mental health strategy.

“Once a week we have resiliency rounds for our staff, which is a mental health check in with a psychologist, a leader, and now a dog. And the dog has probably made the biggest difference,” said McCormick. “It really just provides a micro break, I think, from the chaos of the day.”

BC Children's Hospital director of patient experience Mary Mackillop says she’s seen the difference even a short visit with a therapy dog has had on exhausted frontline staff.

“We could see staff shoulders down, we could see smiles, we could see relief, we could see joy and laughter, and lots of cuddling,” Mackillop said.

With many health-care workers leaving the sector, preventing burn out and retaining staff is key for all hospitals.

“We recognize how difficult it is to work in healthcare, we are understanding of staff shortages and limitations, so it makes sense that we do every little thing we can to make life at work as pleasurable as possible,” Mackillop said.

“We thought what’s a way we can add make a difference to the day? And pet therapy was a no brainer.” Top Stories


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