Hospital Launches Program To Bring Therapy Dogs To COVID Floors For Health Care Staff

Wednesday, December 16th 2020, 12:40 pm
By: CBS News

As COVID hospitalizations are surging around the country, health care workers are feeling even more physical and emotional stress.

The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center is trying a unique way to relieve some of that strain.

Nine months into the pandemic and with the next wave overwhelming hospitals, therapist and associate professor Dr. Kenneth Yeager said health care workers are simply fatigued.

“We're having both physical exhaustion, and we're having emotional exhaustion. That's the big challenge. When, emotionally, you are giving so much of yourself, that it is really difficult to find energy to keep moving forward,” he said.

To offer comfort and support to staff, The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center launched Buckeye Paws. It’s a program that brings certified therapy dogs right to the COVID floors.

“The dogs are like magnets, I mean, staff can't stop, they just go right to them. And what is really amazing is you can see the stress kind of leech out of the individual,” Yeager said.

Heather Hines is on the front lines of the pandemic. As a medical ICU nurse, she is dealing with a lot.

“You don't want to bring anything home. Then you see how sick people can actually get and it could happen to anyone, so you’re just - it does, it brings on a little bit of extra fear and anxiety coming into work,” Hines said.

But Buckeye Paws is helping.

“No matter what’s going on that day, when the dog comes in, it puts a smile on everyone's face,” Hines said.

She said she tries her best to stay positive during these trying times.

“I have two beautiful little babies at home and they definitely keep my stress down, so being around them. I try to eat healthy and workout because that keeps my mind in the right place,” Hines said.

Her pet therapy continues after those long workdays. Hines has three dogs waiting for her at home.

The medical center has also implemented support groups for staff and individual services are also available to anyone in need.