Mequon, Wis., May, 2005 — Patients who come to the Heitz Radiation Oncology Center for treatment soon will find a little extra therapy available in the form of wagging tails. The center, at Columbia St. Mary’s Ozaukee Campus, will launch a Therapy Dog program in early June.
The certified therapy dogs will offer comfort to patients as they wait for their radiation therapy treatment. The program is an expansion of the animal-assisted therapy program begun one year ago at Columbia St. Mary’s Columbia Campus, where dogs help patients in Rehabilitation Services and greet patients in the Constance Walker Radiation Oncology Center.
“At the Ozaukee Campus, we’ll start with four dogs—a boxer-lab mix, a yellow lab, a retriever-samoyed mix, and a golden retriever—with four to six visits per month,” said Laura Hey, occupational therapist and Director of the Animal-Assisted Therapy Program at Columbia St. Mary’s. “Ultimately, we’ll expand the program to make dogs available during most treatment times.”
The use of therapy dogs in hospital settings has proven to provide many benefits to patients and family members, including emotional support, companionship, and socialization. All dogs have passed tests for behavior, obedience, and temperament; have undergone specialized training; and are certified by a national therapy dog association. Their volunteer handlers also have received special training.
About Columbia St. Mary’s
Columbia St. Mary's is comprised of four hospitals: Columbia St. Mary's Hospital Milwaukee, Columbia St. Mary's Columbia Campus, Columbia St. Mary's Hospital Ozaukee, and Sacred Heart Rehabilitation Institute, as well as 28 primary care clinics, the Columbia College of Nursing, a partnership with the Orthopaedic Hospital of Wisconsin, the new River Woods Outpatient Center in Glendale, and new Urgent Care Center in downtown Milwaukee. The system serves individuals and families in Milwaukee, Ozaukee, and Washington counties, with more than 158 years of service. In 2006, Columbia St. Mary’s was named a Solucient Top 100 Hospital. Columbia St. Mary's and its sponsor organizations, Ascension Health and Columbia Health System, share a mission to make a positive difference in the health status and lives of individuals in the community with a special concern for those who are vulnerable.