Patients, Hospital Staff Get Lift from Furry Friends

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Patients, their families, and staff face a lot of stress at hospitals.

That is why UK Healthcare calls upon some furry friends to help out.

Animal-assisted therapy also referred to as pet therapy, is any practice that incorporates animals as part of a therapeutic process to positively affect human health.

“If they really know what they are doing, they can provide comfort, stress reduction, and anxiety in lots of places,” said Susan Lephart, Ph.D., the animal-assisted therapy coordinator.

The animal-assisted therapy program at UK Healthcare is currently composed of more than 32 therapy dog/owner teams.

The UK Volunteer Services staff and the animal-assisted therapy coordinator screen teams to ensure that each dog is well trained and suitable for hospital animal-assisted therapy work has been evaluated and registered through a therapy dog organization and is appropriately immunized and insured.

Analisa Wagoner and her golden retriever, Henley, are one of those therapy dog/owner teams that visit patients and hospital staff.

“It makes a difference not only for the folks he is interacting with but it is great for me as well,” said Wagoner. “It has really been amazing to see their reactions to him.”

Pet therapy is available for all UK Healthcare patients, their families, and caregivers. They can ask that a doctor, nurse, or social worker refer them for animal-assisted therapy.

Once the request goes through, one of the teams will be dispatched at their earliest opportunity to your room for a visit. Therapy visits typically last about 15 minutes.

The program is free that UK Healthcare offers to all patients, families, and caregivers. The staff can also schedule visits for their area within the hospital facility.