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How Dogs Help Keep Staff Morale High

Patients aren’t the only ones at Steward benefiting from the presence of furry friends. Saint Anne’s Hospital launched an innovative staff wellness program in November 2021 that uses a therapy dog to lift staff members’ morale.

Jean Meyers, RRT, Director of Pulmonary, Sleep, & Wound Care Services at Saint Anne’s and one of the founding members of the Wellness Committee that coordinates the program said the impact is immediate.

“You have to see it to believe it,” Jean said. “People just love the visits. They come alive — everybody immediately lights up when the dog comes to their unit.”

Through the program, which is a partnership between Saint Anne’s and Dog B.O.N.E.S Therapy of Massachusetts, a therapy dog named Whiskey Doodle and her handler visit the hospital twice per month. On each visit, they will visit a handful of units, offices, and work areas across the hospital to help staff de-stress.

But the positives don’t stop there. In Jean’s eyes, the program is a win-win for staff and patients.

“It’s important to be in a good place when you’re busy at work caring for other people,” Jean said. “And these therapy dog visits help our staff do that — providing a better workplace and a better patient experience.”

She encourages other Steward hospitals to explore similar programs, saying “it’s not a heavy lift,” but support from hospital leadership is key. “We wouldn’t be able to bring this program to Saint Anne’s without our senior leadership team, who really do care about our staff’s wellness.”