COLUMBIA, Tenn. — Maury Regional Medical Center (MRMC) recently introduced a new pet therapy program that brings animals and their handlers together with patients who may benefit from interaction with a furry friend. The medical center is working with Pet Partners®, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improve people’s health and wellbeing through interactions with animals, to certify the pet teams who will serve as part of the medical center’s long-standing volunteer program.
According to MRMC Volunteer Services Director Cindy Fox, the concept of a formal pet therapy program was first considered when the medical center adopted the Planetree model in 2011. Planetree focuses on providing patient-centered care in healing environments. Pet therapy has been shown to have positive effects on patients’ wellbeing.
“Research has shown that our stress and anxiety levels can be reduced when pets are around. We hope this therapy program has a positive impact on our patients and visitors,” said Fox.
Pets who are candidates for the therapy program are initially evaluated for their ability to follow basic commands and to verify that they are controllable, reliable and predictable. Those who meet the basic criteria undergo a formal evaluation to determine how the animal reacts to distractions, loud noises, meeting strangers, being petted and walking through crowds. Handlers must complete on-line training and pay the required fees. Once a team is certified through Pet Partners, the animal and handler go through the standard process of becoming volunteers at MRMC.
Four teams have completed the certification process and recently began visiting with patients. Dickson-Rine encourages pet owners to consider volunteering for pet therapy programs, such as the one now offered at MRMC.
Staff members at MRMC will use the medical center’s pet therapy policy to assist the handlers in determining departments and patients that may benefit from a pet visit. Pet owners interested in learning more about the new program may call 931.380.4047.