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Facility Dog Helps Children Heal at Minnesota Hospital


By Greg Zimmerman Health Care Facilities
facility dog therapy dog
Facility Dog Rocket and his handler, Anna M Health Fairview University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital

A mountain of evidence shows the healing and stress-relief benefits of animals for those with afflictions ranging from cancer to Alzheimer’s to PTSD. So as healthcare facilities executives work to support the mission of their organizations — helping their patients heal — it’s incumbent upon them to think creatively.  

The Child-Family Life Services program at M Health Fairview University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital has taken this idea to heart. It’s employed a “facility dog” to help comfort children and their families during particularly stressful moments, according to the facility’s website

The facility dog is a 2-year-old golden lab named Rocket. Rocket came to the hospital as part of the Nutrisource Facility Dog Program, an initiative funded by a pet food brand which gave $250,000 to bring Rocket to the hospital. Rocket has received special training that allows him to be in patient rooms during medical procedures, a key difference from “traditional” therapy animals. But to be clear, Rocket is in addition to, not a replacement for, the facility’s existing therapy dog program. As well, Rocket and his handler, Anna, can conduct special therapeutic interventions with patients, including helping a child to walk after surgery and learning to take medicine.

“If a child needed to get an IV, for example, Rocket could help the child cope with what is happening by creating a calm and comforting presence,” said Anna Dressel, a Certified Child Life Specialist, and Rocket’s handler. “The dog can be part of that, and bring a little bit of play into that preparation to lower anxieties, increase comfort and allow that child to cope with what is taking place. In turn, that’s reducing the experience of potential trauma.” 

This post was submitted by Greg Zimmerman, executive editor, Building Operating Management and FacilitiesNet.com. Read his cover story about Chris Walinski and his mission to make open offices flexible and productive

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