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Pooch power cheers ailing patients

Pooch Power Cheers Ailing Patients
Canine companion Hershey visits with patient Shelley Hart as part of a new Pet Therapy Program at Keck Hospital of USC.

Keck Hospital of USC is enlisting the help of some furry, four-legged friends in its quest to provide compassionate care.

The hospital launched a new Pet Therapy Program to help enhance patient experience and to provide patients and visitors with a more relaxed healing environment.

Still in its early stages, the program is being rolled out in the Norris Inpatient Tower Lobby and 6-East, where canines will make weekly visits with patients and families. The patient experience department is facilitating the program, and administrators hope to expand it to other areas of the hospital in the future.

“I can’t say enough what an emotional boost this is providing to everyone – from our patients to our staff,” said Karen Chapman, hospitals associate administrator of safety and support services, who helped lead the initiative. “Hospitals can be stressful places. These dogs bring a sense of warmth and compassion that really changes the environment and provides a more holistic approach to healing.”

The USC Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy initially approached the hospitals with the idea of a pet therapy program last year, Chapman noted. It is a service provided at several other area hospitals, including Los Angeles County+USC Medical Center and Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center.

After forming a committee to work out the details, Keck Hospital connected with Love on 4 Paws, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit organization that provides controlled, animal-assisted therapy. All of the organization’s dogs are screened, trained and certified, and strict guidelines ensure the animals are safe and immunized.

At Keck Hospital, the program will be provided only in clinically appropriate areas. For example, dogs will not visit critical care or transplant units, and they will not visit with high-risk patients, such as those with allergies or in isolation. Coordinators will work with physicians and staff to identify patients who would be suitable and interested in a pet therapy visit.

“This is really about going that extra mile for our patients – providing one more service that might help lift their spirits while in our care,” said Sevanne Sarkis, administrative director of patient experience.

For more information, call (323) 442-8862.

Pooch power cheers ailing patients

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