During an ongoing pandemic, healthcare workers face the harsh realities of Covid-19 constantly. Day in and day out, this work takes a huge toll on their own mental health.
That’s why a therapy dog named Samson does the important job of comforting the staff at Queen’s Medical Center in Hawaii. Trained at Assistance Dogs of Hawaii, Samson was originally supposed to become a Covid detection dog. The organization soon realized his true purpose was in the realm of comforting.
Queen’s Health Systems Chief Physician Executive Dr. Whitney Limm explained:
“Samson really didn’t want to participate in it. He favored mingling with people.”
There For The Hospital Staff
Therapy dogs commonly visit hospitals to help patients and their families feel better. Samson’s particular focus is on taking care of the people who work there.
Samson regularly stops by the COVID-19 unit as well as other areas of Queen’s Medical Center. His visits are part of an effort by Queen’s Health Systems to support their employee’s mental health and well-being.
Maureen Maurer, co-founder and executive director of Assistance Dogs of Hawaii, explained:
“It’s the first time that we as a program, or really anyone that I’ve heard of has placed a dog to work exclusively with the healthcare providers. To support and benefit them.”
Samson began cheering up healthcare workers in September when Covid cases were rising. Dr. Limm noted how much the overworked hospital employees need a pup like Samson around.
“It’s been very stressful for the staff. The patients have been sicker, the patient load has been greater.”
Samson’s handler, Kristen Collat, says she and Samson are happy to help the hardworking hospital staff.
“Mental health is so important. And I think it has been overlooked so early on and now it’s been on the forefront especially with the pandemic.”
The Value Of Samson’s Visits
Petting a dog really is good for anxiety and depression. Collat described the way Samson’s presence improves the healthcare workers’ day:
“Whenever we go to a unit or to an office, it’s amazing to see the demeanor of people. How it changes them, and how it makes them feel happy.”
Because this therapy dog is so important to the people he visits, more medical centers want to have dogs like Samson around. Maurer added:
“We’re getting more and more requests for this type of service. Just to help support the healthcare workers. It’s been such a difficult time for them. We’re really happy to be able to support the important work that they do.”
A therapy dog really can improve mental health, and if anyone deserves that help these days, it’s workers on the front lines of the pandemic.