An initiative to encourage a sense of wellbeing, increase physical movement, speech and brain activity in people who are normally not active in hospital has been introduced at St. Mary’s Hospital through patients having direct contact with dogs.
The simple act of petting a dog has been shown to decrease heart rate, lower blood pressure and stimulate the brain to release the ‘feel good hormones’ called Endorphins. Therapy dogs can alleviate stress, increase confidence, give a sense of purpose and give comfort to those who are missing/no longer have their own pet.
Rehabilitation Unit Matron, Marie Gasior and Sister, Natalie Mew, have been working with St. Mary’s Infection Control Team , Patient Experience Officers and the Pets As Therapy (PAT) Dog Voluntary Service to introduce PAT dogs into the Rehabilitation Unit. Pets As Therapy (PAT) is a community based charity providing therapeutic visits to hospitals, hospices, nursing and care homes, special needs schools and a variety of other establishments from volunteers with their pet dogs and cats. PAT teams bring comfort and companionship to 1,000’s of people, both young and old, by giving them the opportunity to stroke, hold and talk to a calm and friendly dogs and cats. They also provide individual Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT), working with stroke patients and people with dog phobias.
The first visit took place on Monday 13th January and proved very successful with a visit from two dogs, Tiger and REME, both retired Greyhounds from the racing circuit, but now follow a very different working environment. Owners Mr & Mrs Marshall and their two dogs visited a number of patients and the reaction was very encouraging with one patient saying “This has been one of the best days I have had in a very long time”.
Marie Gasior, Matron said:
“The improvement in the moral of our patients on the Unit was noticeable in a very short time, it was brilliant, lots of patients with smiling faces which lasted the rest of the day. The visit was so successful that it has brought the potential for the dogs to be used in other units in the hospital. We are already looking forward to the next visit; we are beginning with fortnightly visits for two months if they prove to be a success which I am sure they will we will be inviting the PAT dogs back weekly. Success to me is a smiling face, conversation, and group interaction. These are the things I noticed on Monday and will effect the wellbeing of our patients.”
Mrs Audrey Powell, IOW Coordinator for PAT, said:
“We have 16 dogs operating on the Island. Over the 17 years we have been active all dogs are rigorously tested, not only for tolerance and temperament, but medically examined and inoculated to the highest standards required by the PAT. The ability of a dog to know and react to the feeling of a human has been known for centuries. For many, life without a dog is unthinkable, but being parted from your K-9 partner can be the unfortunate result of hospitalization or going into a residential/nursing home.”
The introduction of PAT dogs to the Rehabilitation Unit at St. Mary’s Hospital is supported by wider ongoing Research and is in line with other Trusts.
Pictured: Left-Right; Mrs Kay Marshal with Tiger – Centre in Yellow T Shirt Audrey Powell – Right Mr John Marshall with REME. Mr Marshall served 27 years in the Army with Royal Electrical Mechanical Engineers (REME) hence the dog’s name.