Hospital Dog Therapy occupies a unique position. Inherent in the human-animal bond dwell incredible healing powers. Offering their unconditional love and exuberance for life, animals enhance our lives. I’ve gained an entirely new perspective on alternative methods to enhance one’s emotional well-being, and will not think twice before stopping to say hi to our hospital volunteers.
Medicine services at the hospital has been busier than ever, and with the Medicaid rules, patients admitted under ‘observation’ status must be discharged within 24 hours , otherwise insurance companies will not pay. Capped to the max, my intern and I have been living a vicious cycle of admit, discharge, admit, discharge. We can not catch a break in the past few weeks. Luckily as residents, the rotation does not last long, and in the matter of a few more days, I’ll be on to the next rotation.
Today was an especially busy day, and my team (3rd year medical student, 4th year medical student, and Intern) was working very hard. We spent a great deal of the morning rounding on patients with the Attending, writing notes, putting in orders for the nurses, communicating with social workers and case managers, and discharging the patients before the emergency room called us with yet another admission.
It was late afternoon before I knew it, but time doesn’t matter when you are a resident. Today was a 30-hour shift. I still had the entire night ahead of me.
By 4pm much of the hospital was winding down. A select group of residents we on-call and had to remain in the hospital until morning, so we pow-wowed together, contemplating on what we were going to order for dinner. I couldn’t decide between a cup of coffee for an afternoon pick-me-up, or food to get me through the night. I opted for the caffeine instead.
Just before I could even take a sip of my coffee, as most days will have it, I received a call from one of the nurses that had a patient of mine. She was calling me about Ms. Jones, my 90 year old patient that just underwent hip surgery. Her family wanted to speak with me. Ms. Jones was a ‘kickin’’ kind of 90, and she did just fine. I made my way to the 7th floor of the hospital, coffee in hand.
The elevator doors opened, and Zeus, a very friendly Cocker Spanial member of the Therapy Dog Program at the hospital greeted me. He took my by surprise as he trotted out of the elevator, as I stepped in. “I’ll catch the next one” I told the others that were waiting for the elevator. I was inclined to take a few minutes to talk to Zeus’ owner, and to pet Zeus of course.
Mr. Platt, Zeus’ owner, told me that the Therapy Dog Program has been around for nearly the past 8 years. Providing enormous health benefits to patients, and even, improved the psychological well-being of hospital staff, dog therapy has been around for a long time. A friendly visit from your hospital pup has been proven to improve recovery from heart disease, lower blood pressure, and even provide comfort and a few smiles to the patients in the cancer ward.
‘Have you ever needed a hug at work’, Mr. Platt asked me.
‘Of course,’ I said. It’s hard to express that kind of emotion in the workplace. He then told me a story that I will never forget.
Mr. Platt went on to say that just one week ago, one of the ER Physicians came running through the doors that lead to the main hospital floor. At the time, he and Zeus happened to be close by. The ER doc fell to his knees, hugged Zeus and started crying. He wept for about a minute stood up and thanked Mr. Platt, he told him it was just what he needed. The ER doc stood up, wiped his tears, and went back through the doors of the ER to work.
Mr. Platt later found out that a child had past away earlier that evening after being brought into the emergency room by his parents. Allergic reaction had got the best of the young boy, and there was not much more the ER could have done to save his life.
As I was explained the benefits of Dog Therapy, I could not help to wonder about all of families that have been touched by the therapy dogs at the hospital. Not only do patients need a little laughter to get through their days, but doctors do to.
My team felt refreshed after getting a little dog therapy. Ms. Jones and her family were waiting for me. Time to get back to work…