A visitor from Pet Partners of Syracuse checks in with a family member of a patient at St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center in the waiting room. The hospital recently launched a pet therapy program to help patients and their family members, as well as staff, cope with the stresses of the hospital environment.
continued At St. Joe’s, Lando and her staff had to jump through a lot of hoops to bring the program to its current state of being.
“It was quite a process to get where we are,” Lando said.
First, the Office of Patient Experience had to figure out how to establish the pet therapy program. They held countless meetings with the hospital’s infection control team and medical leadership to set parameters while speaking to other hospitals with similar programs to determine how to implement it in Syracuse. Once those parameters had been set and the guidelines for the program had been written, Lando’s office had to determine where the program could take place and which patients could be eligible.
“Obviously, we can’t bring them to patients that are afraid of dogs or that are allergic,” Lando said. “We have to take that into account, or if they have a roommate with the same symptoms. We can move them to another room. We also have to take into account open wounds or patients who are immune-compromised. It’s common sense things you would think.”
Once the program kicked off earlier this year, Pet Partners of Syracuse began coming to the hospital in four separate animal/handler teams in two-hour blocks. At first, they would stick to the public areas — the lobby and the waiting areas.
“They would go and be greeters in the lobby, then in the waiting rooms. And there was such a great reception,” Lando said. “We had them in the surgical waiting rooms. The families there would be so nervous waiting for news of their loved ones, and the therapy teams would take their minds off that. They’d tell stories about their own pets at home. It would relieve their anxiety about that.”
The reception was so good that Lando was able to get approval to bring the teams into the patients’ rooms. If a patient is eligible, he or she fills out the appropriate referral and consent forms. He or she can then get on the list to be visited by a dog and handler team from Pet Partners.