Pet therapy helping families cope during hospital stays –

Many people have experienced the love and happiness that having pets around can bring. Being in a hospital, that access is limited and patients sometime s need something to cheer them up in such a trying time.Tomball Regional Medical Center recently began using pet therapy as a means for patients to better deal with their current circumstances and to bring a positive feeling to the hospital environment.The Chief Nursing Officer, Sharon Ikeler, came to TRMC in September of 2014 and shared new ideas of how to better serve patients. The idea of pet therapy came from her own familiarity with such a program when she endured a traumatic event with her family.“I had the chance to personally experience pet therapy with my daughter when she was in the hospital, so I truly saw the benefits of pet therapy,” said Sharon. “With my experience – and Tomball is always looking to increase the comfort and satisfaction of our patients – I actually proposed the idea of pet therapy.”Tomball Regional Medical Center began the pet therapy program for patients in early June of this year and has had positive feedback from patients, families and nurses. Having pet therapy cheers patients up, as they are able to take their minds off of the stress of being injured or ill.“It gives them the distraction they need to not focus on the acute illness or the reason that brought them to the hospital. They’re allowed to bond and to smile. There’s so much that’s researched about pet therapy and how the logical implications of pet therapy itself can lower the heart rate, it can lower blood pressure, it can decrease anxiety and fear levels. It’s just a distraction to a very anxious and fearful event of being in the hospital.”TRMC takes extra measures to ensure the quality and care of everyone involved in the pet therapy process. Infection control policies are enforced. It’s guaranteed that the pet is fully trained and vaccinated before being permitted. Also, before each visit, the animal is bathed thoroughly to lower infection, germ, and disease risks.The only pet currently volunteering at TRMC is Teddy Bear, an 11 year-old cocker spaniel. He visits the hospital once a week, and makes plenty of people happy when he’s there.“He comes on Thursday mornings. He averages about 45 visits with patients, visitors and staff a week. We absolutely love him. He’s just amazing. It’s been an invaluable experience to travel with Teddy and to see all of the families and patient faces light up and just enjoy the visit, so we intend to keep this around for as long as possible.”Teddy Bear comes to patient’s bedsides where they are allowed to hug, pet and essentially bond with him. With doctor’s permission, some patients are even allowed to take him for a walk around the facilities and be a bit more active.Teddy Bear’s owner, Nancy Holchak, accompanies Teddy Bear on all of his visits. She has seen the impact pet therapy has made on patients and their families.“He’s got one of these personalities that absolutely draws people in,” said Nancy. “He has a dog stroller and he will literally reach for people when he sees them. Teddy Bear never meets a stranger.”Nancy enjoys volunteering her time to share Teddy Bear with others. Not only have patients been encouraged by the time spent with Teddy Bear, but Nancy is also moved by her dog’s ability to change the lives of the people he encounters.“Volunteering with my pet therapy cocker spaniel, Teddy Bear has been an awesome gift in my life. I have witnessed time after time patients, residents, families and friends change from a state of sadness to one of happiness. If for just a minute in time a pet therapy animal can provide happiness and conversation, or simply offer entertainment and a diversion from pain, worry or loneliness it is well worth my volunteer time.”Pet therapy has touched so many people in just the short time it has been at Tomball Regional Medical Center. The hospital is glad to be able to provide such a wonderful service for their patients.“TRMC is absolutely dedicated to making sure that we look for ways to increase the comfort and satisfaction of our patients,” said Sharon. “Pet therapy is definitely one of those goals.”

Source: Pet therapy helping families cope during hospital stays – Your Houston News: News

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