Belly rubs, head scratches and smiles were in abundance during a recent shift change at UT Health Tyler, as caregivers coming on or off duty stopped to interact with Therapet dogs, who lined the hallway of the hospital's skywalk.
"Nowadays it's really stressful, so it's great to see dogs," said Ashley Meador, occupational therapy assistant, as she stopped to pet one of the therapy dogs after her shift ended. "I really want a dog, so it made all the difference."
Therapet partners with UT Health East Texas to serve patients on a regular basis. However, when those visits ceased because of COVID-19, Therapet Executive Director Elysia Reineck said they tried to get creative in how to provide assistance.
"Both the human volunteers and the dogs, they very much miss the interaction," Reineck said. "We are grateful to the amazing employees of UT Health East Texas for the long and stressful hours they've put in over the past few months to help keep our community stay safe and well. We're excited to have the opportunity to say ‘thank you' in person and provide some hugs from the Therapet dogs."
Cassie Anderson, UT Health Tyler's director of volunteers and patient logistics, said Therapet's visits have been missed during the COVID restrictions, so the recent visit was "a great opportunity for them to do what they do best, and for our caregivers to have a bit of a respite from the stresses of working in healthcare during this trying time."
Donna Atwood, director of outpatient surgery, said the visit was a great mood booster at the end of a long shift.
"I feel so supported and it's just a wonderful opportunity to be able to literally have access to something that's therapeutic, and we know the facility is supporting us," Atwood said.