Therapy dogs help cheer up patients, staff in Nashville Hospital

Nic, 3-year-old Goldendoodle, and other therapy dogs visit the hospital at least once a week to boost patient and staff morale.

NASHVILLE, Tennessee – The shrieks, claps and cheers exploded as Nic entered the nurses’ station.

“Is he here? Nic is here? Hey, Nic is here!”

Several more nurses stream in from the maternity and maternity ward at Ascension Saint Thomas Hospital Midtown, smiling and with clasped hands.

He’s fanned out as he rushes from nurse to nurse, adapting to their frenetic energy while searching for snacks and scratches.

Nic, the three-year-old Goldendoodle, is a rock star.

After a minute, Nurse Amy Smith, typing at her desk, looked down, “Nic, do you want to map with me?”

Nic immediately put both of his front paws on the desk and watched while the other sisters squealed again.

“This is so cute!” shouted one.

Yes indeed. It was really real.

At least once a week, Nic or one of his volunteer therapy dogs visits the hospital, ostensibly to make patients happy.

But most doctors, nurses and technicians also love the puppies.

“We have focused on getting our animal therapy teams to visit staff in 2022,” said Jan Brown, the hospital’s volunteer services coordinator. “The leadership came to me and asked if we could make this a reality to boost morale and reduce stress.”

Medical technician Diamond Hodges, 27, agrees.

“We need you on this floor every day!” Hodges told Nic as she scratched him behind the ears on the OR floor.

Nic and the other therapy dogs (and of course their volunteer handlers) still visit patients.

Nic actually jumped right into the hospital bed with heart patient Gene Meyers, 83, from Smyrna. And Meyers loved it: “I’ve had dogs my whole life,” Meyers said while patting Nic’s furry bottom. “That’s great.”

So, quick question: would your dog really be great at it? Think you’d love your pooch visiting patients and staff?

If so, there are organizations that can get your pet certified as a therapy dog. Two of these are Pet Partners and Therapy Dogs International.

You can also inquire about how you can volunteer with Saint Thomas Hospital Volunteer Coordinators Jan Brown and Patrick Houseman. Therapy dogs help cheer up patients, staff in Nashville Hospital

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