Surrey Memorial Hospital has introduced B.C.’s first trauma dog for victims of relationship violence, puppy days for staff wellness, and is creating a team of therapy dogs for patient visits.
SURREY – At Fraser Health, we can provide the best medicine and care for our patients and support our employees every day, but sometimes the best solution is man’s best friend. That’s why Surrey Memorial Hospital has introduced B.C.’s first trauma dog for victims of relationship violence, puppy days for staff wellness, and is creating 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 Fraser Health president and CEO, Michael Marchbank. “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 3-year old yellow lab, Fraser Health’s first trauma dog and the first of his kind in a hospital in British Columbia. As a trauma dog, Koltan 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. Including him as part of the treatment plan allows patients suffering from trauma to engage in therapeutic contact with him, increasing calm and reducing stress. 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.
Therapy dogs provide comfort to people who might be lonely or depressed to help motivate them in recovery. Koltan was trained through the Pacific Assistance Dog Society and, since joining Surrey Memorial Hospital, Koltan has already helped hundreds of people either through brief encounters or scheduled interactions. The many positive benefits, for both patients and employees, are why Fraser Health is increasing pet therapy in our health care environments.
“Koltan is extremely empathetic. He loves touch and he loves people,” said Lynn Gifford, clinical coordinator, forensic nursing, and one of Koltan’s caretakers. “I have seen him provide companionship to victims of relationship violence who benefit from this non-judgmental form of comfort.”
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.
We also know that our employees can benefit from interactions with dogs as well. Surrey Memorial Hospital has a Puppy Love Day which is a day when BC Pets and Friends, a volunteer organization, brings puppies and dogs to the hospital and employees can interact with the animals.
“I come to work with my service dog McKenna, and constantly employees are stopping me to pet him,” said ShelleyLynn Gardner, rehabilitation assistant at Surrey Memorial Hospital. “I support Puppy Love Day, where employees can come, meet therapy dogs and take in some natural positive energy that they can take with them through the day.”
Together, Fraser Health’s effort to include dogs in health care will provide both patients and employees with physical and emotional comfort that only a man’s best friend can provide.