Dignity Health Merced | helloHealthy | Fall 2019

HelloHealthy | Fall 2019 5 T hey come in all different sizes, shapes, and colors. Some are male; some are female. But they all have one thing in common: They make the patients and staff at Dignity Health – Mercy Medical Center doggone happy. When one of the dogs in the Pet Therapy Program arrives at the hospital, everything seems to change. Faces light up. Smiles become contagious. Patients anxiously await their turn with the animal. “I see the patients and how their faces brighten,” says Eva Miranda, Patient Advocate who oversees the Pet Therapy Program at Mercy Medical Center. “They start talking about their pets at home and their family life. All of a sudden they feel like, ‘I’m not sick; I have a dog here.’” A change for the good Mercy Medical Center began its Pet Therapy Program back in 2002. The previous patient advocate had seen the benefits of pet therapy at another hospital and decided to bring it here. The dogs have to go through a thorough assessment before being accepted into the therapy program. In addition to a physical checkup, they need to complete an obedience class and screening. “The dog owners also have to go through our volunteer program, undergo a background screening, and get cleared medically,” Miranda says. At least one dog visits patients almost every day at Mercy Medical Center. Sometimes a visit with a patient lasts only a few minutes; sometimes it can go on for a half hour or more. “I’ll hear from staff that a particular patient really enjoyed their visit and wants to know when the dog will be coming back,” Miranda says. “They’re really looking forward to seeing another dog. Nurses tell me, ‘I don’t know what you and that dog did yesterday, but that patient was just a completely different person after you left their room.’” The medical staff enjoy pet therapy days too! “A dog can change a person’s attitude and mental state. I see it every day.” — Eva Miranda Gus Holly Lacey Rusty