Surrey Memorial Hospital has gone to the dogs.
And in this case, that’s a good thing.
Thanks to a new initiative from the Fraser Health Authority, which oversees public healthcare in the area, the major Surrey hospital has introduced what they say is BC’s first trauma dog for victims of relationship violence. There will also be puppy days for staff wellness, and a team of therapy dogs for patient visits.
“Interacting with dogs can improve patient outcomes by creating a therapeutic and healing environment. It also gives a moment for staff to decompress and start a conversation that will bring co-workers together,” said Michael Marchbank, Fraser Health president and CEO.
“Introducing dogs in health care is a creative way to bring quality leisure experiences which will help healing and greater well-being for people with illness or for those providing the support.”
Surrey Memorial Hospital is home to Koltan, a three-year old yellow lab trauma dog. The specially-trained pooch provides support to patients in the emergency department and intensive care unit as well as those who have suffered from relationship violence, including sexual abuse.
In a release, Fraser Health said studies have shown that therapeutic contact with animals lowers blood pressure, reduces heart rate, improves cardiovascular health and slows breathing in those who are anxious. Koltan is no exception.
“Koltan is extremely empathetic,” said Lynn Gifford, one of Koltan’s caretakers. “He loves touch and he loves people.”
In addition to Koltan for trauma patients, Surrey Memorial Hospital is creating a therapy dog team.
Recreational therapists will consider pet therapy as part of their treatment for patients and then connect with the therapy dog team if appropriate.
The goal is to have a database of many different dogs to meet the preferences of different patients.
Fraser Health hopes to have the program operational in spring 2018.