CLARKSBURG — Being in the hospital is typically not an enjoyable time, but there is something professionals use to cheer up patients and make their stay a little more bearable.
Therapy dogs are used at Highland-Clarksburg Hospital, United Hospital Center and WVU Medicine Children’s Hospital.
“We really think it’s a great program, and it definitely helps with the patients as far as helping them heal and get better and go home quicker,” said Bridget Radmer, child life coordinator at WVU Medicine Children’s.
Thirteen certified therapy dogs and their trained volunteer handlers rotate coming to the pediatric hospital throughout a typical month. Patients, family and staff look forward to therapy dog visits twice a month, Radmer said.
The dogs are in the lobby or activities center and are used as motivation to get patients out of bed and walking.
“A lot of times we’ve seen kids that have been really shy and not interacting with staff at all. And then, they’ll go down to the therapy dogs and talk to the dogs, and they’ll talk to the handlers that are with them and kind of socialize with them,” she said.
Potential changes are in the works for the program to allow the dogs to go to patient rooms. Radmer said they’re working with the hospital’s infection control department and policies to make those changes safely.
Lisa Lyon is a retired registered nurse and a volunteer who brings Tia, a Whippet. Lyon has been bringing a therapy dog to the hospital since 2004, when she would bring her greyhound.
“They’re in a situation where things aren’t normal for them. They’re out of their routine. They’re in a place with lots of smells and different things going on. And the dogs come in and you can see them sort of exhale and just relax around the dogs,” she said. “… It’s almost like a…