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Healthcare Win at Pensacola Hospital With Therapy Dog Program

Posted by Brian Spence on Mar 2, 2018 8:00:00 AM

Healthcare, Allied Health, Occupational TherapyA therapy dog is making special visits to children at a Pensacola, Fla. hospital. After doctors complete medical examinations and nurses finish routine tests at Sacred Heart Children's Hospital, Sprout walks in with her tail wagging. Sprout is Sacred Heart's latest addition as the official therapy dog for the hospital.

Sprout Cheers Up Hospital Patients.

Sick children like Lily and Noah Wilks are happy to see the adorable, two-year-old Golden Retriever. The siblings, who were adopted from China, spend a lot of time inside the children's hospital ward. They suffer from a rare genetic blood disorder and, every three weeks, the pair returns to Sacred Heart to receive a life-saving, red blood cell transfusion.

Sprout makes the return hospital visits bearable for ill children like Lily and Noah. The therapy dog plays with them after they receive shots. She cuddles close to them. Sprout also relieves the stress of parents worried about their children's recovery.

The Start of Sacred Heart's Therapy Dog Program.

Julia Humphries, Sacred Heart's child life specialist, is her handler. Humphries has a background in psychology and helps translate difficult medical jargon so children can understand it. The professional is their safe person and the children reveal their fears to her if they're scared about medical procedures.

Humphries started the therapy dog program at the hospital. There was an initial $40,000 cost upfront to purchase extra sheets for Sprout and pay for a custodian to sweep up after the dog leaves the room. Sprout was trained by Canine Assistants in Georgia which places puppies in hospital environments at eight weeks old. Ultimately, the trained canines become accustomed to the sights, sounds, and smells of medical facilities.

Sprout Calms Patients.

Sprout is calm and patient with children. The docile, young dog works from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Her handler brushes her twice a day and gives her potty breaks. She also visits the groomer on a regular basis.

Humphries said that Sprout has calmed down children in the ward. When a dog interacts with a child, the child life specialist said it has the same effect as an adult taking a Tylenol. The program is completely donor-funded which allows the for the dog and its handler to be trained.

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