How dogs in hospital can help with staff wellbeing and mental health

There are many therapy dogs in hospital programs that have had positively impacted patients. At Dogs Connect, we have built a unique program to provide emotional support to caregivers. We want to ensure the entire community experiences the benefits of bringing a wellbeing dog into the hospital.

How do wellbeing dogs help in hospitals?

Hospitals can be stressful and intense places for both patients and caregivers. The purpose of the wellbeing dog is to connect with caregivers. They can offer moments of uplift, lightness, and connection throughout the long days and nights. The flow-on effects can be seen with patients receiving better care from staff who have had a moment of release from their stressful job.

Having dogs in hospitals can help:

Calm anxious healthcare workers

Evidence shows that just by being near a dog when stressed can reduce anxiety, lower the heart rate and blood pressure. The calming presence of a wellbeing dog can provide a welcome distraction during a difficult and long shift.

Reduce burnout

We know that caregivers are on the front line and are at risk of compassion burnout and fatigue. With a dedicated wellbeing dog in hospital, caregivers can decompress with some animal therapy before heading back to their patients. By introducing such an innovative program, workplace culture often improves which reduces absenteeism and ensures better care for patients.

Deal with trauma

Healthcare workers sometimes have to deal with incredibly traumatic moments daily. Our programs help you learn about how trauma can affect you, your family and colleagues. We support by combining interactions with your wellbeing dog with professional learning that will help develop strategies for managing theses stresses.

How does it work?

We work with hospitals all over Australia. We consider everything from infection control through to interaction and support from your wellbeing dog during handover.

Initially, we need a volunteer to home the dog and be the primary carer. Once that has been decided, we help you:

  • Find a suitable dog that will suit your circumstances.
  • Write policies, risk assessments and building protocol documents to meet international standards.
  • Prepare the hospital so that consistent expectations are set and met by everyone.
  • Set up the hospital and home space so that your wellbeing dog feels like it belongs.
  • Train individuals in building authentic connections between members of the community and the wellbeing dog.
  • Set healthy and context-appropriate behavioural routines for your wellbeing dog and community.
  • Teach social and emotional management strategies with the wellbeing dog.
  • Build confidence with the community dog and become creative by working as a team to meet your needs.

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