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SSM Health Medical Minute –Therapy dogs helping hospital staff in addition to patients

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FENTON, Mo. - Pet therapy support dogs have played an important role in the healing of SSM Health patients.

At least once a week, the dogs and their volunteer handlers visit patients, families, and staff to bring comfort, joy, and a much-needed break from reality at several SSM Health hospitals, including SSM Health St. Clare Hospital in Fenton.

Research has shown that interaction with a therapy dog can reduce pain, anxiety, depression, and fatigue in patients. There are also the less tangible benefits: Patients often report that they feel happier, less lonely, more talkative and more optimistic after visiting with the therapy dogs.

Duo Dogs is the nonprofit organization that provides the visits twice a week at St. Clare Hospital on Tuesdays and Thursdays. While therapy dogs have been visiting patients around the hospital for years, the program has recently expanded to include visits to patients in the ER, Cancer Care, and ICU. But recently, the therapy dogs have been found to help boost staff morale as well.

Teams visit our hospitals on a regular basis on weekdays, evenings, weekends and even holidays. Teams are assigned two to three units and will call ahead to let staff know of their visit. Staff will then put together a list of patients who would like a visit.

Dog visits with the staff have been shown to reduce stress and blood pressure and build morale when the dogs visit staff teams. The benefits of dog therapy have been shown to improve teamwork and communication of hospital staff.

This is just one way SSM Health hospitals enhance a patient's experience and help to provide exceptional care. Our canine teams also provide meaningful interactions for families and staff.

To learn more about pet therapy offered at SSM Health, click here.

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