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Stazinskis stint as a Childrens Hospital volunteer began
like everyone elses. She went through a careful screening
process that included reference and health checks, reported to Parking
and Security to pose for a photo and get her hospital ID, and stopped
by the Center
for Families to get the names of the children she would be visiting
that day. Unlike most volunteers, however, next she received a dog
bone for responding to a command to heel.
Last month Stella, a Labrador retriever, became the first canine
volunteer in Pawprints,
the hospitals new therapy dog visitation program. Like programs
of its kind around the country, Pawprints aims to provide hospitalized
children and their families with a diversion from the usual hospital
routine and opportunities for social interaction.
But theres much more to Pawprints than that, according to
Aimee Lyons, RN, MSN, CCRN, who heads
up the program in addition to her duties on Pavilion 5 and in the
Emergency Transport Program. The reason pet programs are successful
is that dogs dont care how many tubes you have in, how many
scars you have or what language you speak, she says. They
give you unconditional love.
The effect that therapy dogs can have was apparent when Stella
made her first patient visit, meeting Preston Keys, a 3-year-old
boy from Virginia who had been holed up on 6 East. Preston was wheeled
into the family room in a go-cart, trailing tubes and IVs, and looking
every bit as unhappy as he must have felt. As soon as he saw Stella
his eyes lit up, a smile broke across his face and he reached out to pet her.
Stella eagerly returned his attention and before long the two were
sitting next to each other on the floor like old friends.
forming bonds with patients is easy for Stella, getting to the point
where she could visit with them was a long and thorough process
for both her and her owner. Allyson Stazinski,
RN, BSN, (left) a nurse in Radiology, decided to enlist Stella
in the program because she wanted to give something back
to the patients shes been taking care of for nearly 20 years.
Before Stella could step foot in the hospital, however, she went
through a careful screening process that included a physical exam,
laboratory screening, and an in-depth behavioral evaluation to ensure
that she has the right personality and temperament to be around
children in a hospital environment. The evaluation included tests
of how the dog would react to strange noises and situations that
may be common when little hands get within reach of friendly and
fluffy animalssuch as ear tugging, tail pulling and unexpected
petting from behind.
Even though there is currently only one other dog (Amos, a Golden
retriever) in the program and 6 East is the only floor Stella has
visited so far, the goal, according to Lyons, is to eventually have
dog visits at least once a week on all inpatient units except for
those with sensitive patient populations, such as the Stem Cell
Transplant unit on 6 West, the intensive care units and 8 North.
Susan Klavon, MSSW, Risk Management
and Quality Improvement consultant, works with Maura
OConnell, LCSW, in the Center for Families, to coordinate
the Pawprints program. Klavon says that patients must be cleared
by their parents and doctors before a dog can come for a visit,
but the effort is more than worth it. One parent said that
the visit from Stella truly made his childs day, and that
just seeing him smile was great.
For more information on the program, which was launched by a generous
grant from The Childrens Hospital League, visit www.childrenshospital.org/pawprints,
or call ext. 5-2778. MC