SLU Hospital adds new staff support dog for stressed-out employees

Missouri

ST. LOUIS – Folks across the country are feeling a lot of stress caused by COVID-19. Imagine the stress for nurses and doctors on the front lines in hospitals.

SSM SLU Hospital has added a new staff member to help erase some of the tension among workers.

His name is Bennett; that’s it, just Bennett.

The English Cream Golden Retriever’s smile and wagging tail are like magic for SSM SLU Hospital workers.

Bennett really knows how to lay on the loving.

“It’s wonderful. It is an immediate stress relief,” said one worker.

The dog even gets to wear a hospital badge. His title? Chief Snuggle Officer.

Mary Catherine Moran, Bennett’s human, also works in hospital administration. Moran said Bennett lights up a room.

“The entire room just starts smiling,” she said.

Bennett began visiting SLU Hospital when he was only 8-weeks-old and since then he’s bonded with lots of people. Dogs are like a special medicine.

“They just love you unconditionally,” said ICU nurse Samantha Bush. “They’re always happy to see you.”

Right now, Bennett is only certified to offer comfort to hospital employees. When he turns a year old in June, he’ll begin training to be a therapy dog for patients.

“There’s been a lot of studies over the years that have shown animals really do help people decrease blood pressure and have a calming presence,” said Kelly Baumer, vice-president of specialty service at SSM SLU Hospital.

There’s no better time for Bennett to relieve tension among hospital personnel. They worry about the virus at work and home.

“He’s always around with a smile on his face and a wagging tail and how do you not match that energy?” Moran said.

Hospital folks talked to their infectious disease specialists. They make sure people wash their hands before and after touching Bennett. Plus, he gets a bath when he gets home after he’s made rounds at the hospital.

“It’s pretty stressful. There’s always the concern you’re going to take this home to your family and they could be sick,” Bush said.

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