When you become sick or are injured, you want the best medical technology and the most experienced doctors and nurses to diagnose, treat and heal what ails you. Sometimes the healing process is a long one, and it can be a frustrating experience to endure. Friends and family can help keep your spirits up, but what about man’s best friend?
OSF Saint Francis Medical Center is the first hospital in the area to offer animal-assisted therapy to patients, because we believe in treating the emotional as well as the physical needs of our patients. “Paws 4 Healing” will allow specially trained dogs to cheer up our patients and relieve some of the stress they feel while in the hospital.
Animal-assisted therapy uses highly trained animals and handlers to help patients achieve specific physical, social, cognitive and emotional goals. Specially-trained therapy dogs and their owners will, on request, visit the hospital to bring comfort to patients, reduce stress, anxiety, pain, blood pressure and increase patient social interaction and communication. The program is modeled after the successful Paws 4 Therapy, Inc. program, which has been cited as a Joint Commission “Best Practice” and is the model for the newly proposed Illinois Department of Public Health guidelines. Research in the areas of human-animal bonding and the presence of animals lowering blood pressure is well established.
How It Works
At the patient’s request, a dog/handler team will visit the bedside of medically qualified patients. We are currently in the process of recruiting volunteers with dogs who are interested in helping our patients. There are basic qualifying requirements to become a member of the “Paws 4 Healing” team. They include:
- Handlers must be 18 years or older.
- Dogs need to be at least one year of age and should:
- Consistently sit, get down, and stay and recall on one command
- Walk loosely on a leash without pulling, even when excited or in a new environment
- Be able to perform commands without treats
- Like people and get along well with other dogs
- Not be overly vocal
- Have no food, possession, or separation anxiety issues
- Be up to date on all vaccinations and free of all skin problems.
Volunteer Shifts and How to Apply
If you and your dog would like to be considered for part of this exciting new program, visit osfsaintfrancis.org to download the volunteer application. After a phone screening, you may be invited to our temperament testing. If you and your dog pass, you will need to be available for four full days of training. iBi