Introducing Roxy: Pet Therapy Program launches at St George Hospital

The Diversional Therapy Program at St George Hospital has recently expanded to include dog therapy, in partnership with PAWS Pet Therapy.
Every Wednesday, specially trained Labrador Roxy visits the Aged Care Precinct Ward to provide company, smiles and memories of patients’ own pets.
Dona Sakr, Multicultural Health Worker, Diversity and Aboriginal Health, St George Hospital, said a Leisure and Recreation Program was implemented in 2015 as a way of providing meaningful activities for patients.
“Research suggests that people who participate in leisure and recreational activities can enhance their physical wellbeing, increase socialisation, enhance cognitive function and decrease stress,” Ms Sakr said.
To demonstrate evidence of success of the dog therapy program, anecdotes based on patient and staff responses have been collected since it began on 20 June 2018.
“Even in very confused patients with dementia, we sometimes observe moments of lucidity where a patient may ask what Roxy’s name is or who her owner is – or share stories about the dogs they had growing up. Recently, after observing a long-term patient smiling and excitedly patting Roxy, one of the nurses commented that this was the happiest and most engaged they’d even seen that particular patient, which was lovely to hear,” Ms Sakr said.  

Ms Sakr added that importantly, diversional therapy research also demonstrates a range of benefits to staff.
“In a hospital setting, implementing recreational activities on a regular basis can reduce patients’ levels of aggression and reduce falls and the length of hospital stays – outcomes which also boost staff morale. We have also seen patients become more compliant with treatment as these activities help to build trust.
“Roxy really lights up the ward when she visits – doctors, nurses, allied health, admin staff, domestic staff often stop what they’re doing and come to pat the dog and take photos,” Ms Sakr said.
Sponsorship for the Dog Therapy Program was received from ISS Health Services Pty Ltd and Women’s Auxiliary at Kogarah RSL Club to cover the cost for weekly visits until the end of the year.
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