A new program from Parkview Health allows co-workers to make the workday brighter and help improve the mental well-being of their peers – with a little help from their four-legged friends.
Freddie Austin, well-being coordinator, Parkview Pups, Human Resources, Parkview Health, shared that the concept for Parkview Pups actually came from another healthcare organization. Several Parkview leaders were attending a conference at this organization and noticed that there were dogs all over the room. They learned these furry friends were part of the organization’s internal pet therapy program. The leaders all agreed they wanted to bring the concept back to the Parkview health system, and that’s exactly what they did. “Human Resources is always looking for ways to enhance coworkers’ well-being, and what better way than with a dog?” Freddie said.
Parkview Pups gives approximately 30 Parkview co-workers and their dogs the opportunity to become certified therapy dog and handler teams. Once certified, teams can visit Parkview facilities to provide comfort and emotional support for fellow co-workers.
The inaugural class
Through the program, all canine companions are temperament tested and certified through Canine Good Citizen (CGC) and Alliance of Therapy Dogs (ATD) to ensure a positive and safe experience for all. Parkview Pups is funded entirely by the generosity of the Parkview Foundations, so there is no cost to co-workers.
In early August, the first four Parkview Pups teams to complete certification made their tail-wagging debut at a Parkview leadership meeting and began their visits in Parkview facilities.
One of those teams is Mike Brown, flight paramedic, Parkview Samaritan, and his seven-year-old golden retriever, Samuel (named after Parkview’s medical helicopter). “I was just so excited when I saw the email!” he said. “It’s something my wife and I have always wanted to do, therapy work with the dogs. The application process was fairly seamless. We’d been doing some basic obedience training with Samuel since he was a pup, so we were ready to hit the ground running.”
With a handful of visits under his belt, Samuel is showing just how positive the program can be. “He loves it,” Mike said. “He can’t stop wagging that tail and getting those pets.”
Fifteen teams were certified by the end of September.
Interacting with pets is proven to boost health and well-being, which is why Parkview continues to partner with Three Rivers Visiting Dogs, whose certified dogs and handlers visit primarily with hospital patients, and occasionally with co-workers. Parkview Pups was created to focus exclusively on the well-being of co-workers and allow co-workers the opportunity to support one another.
“The goal is to enhance the well-being of coworkers by bringing a smile to their faces, shedding a little bit of joy, a little bit of light on their days with our Parkview Pups teams,” Freddie said.
For Mike, the motivation to participate is a deep one. “My primary goal is to help our coworkers with their mental health. I think this program, what can make it so successful, is that it’s for coworkers, by coworkers, so that gives us that extra connection to the people we’re trying to help,” he said. “It’s amazing to see how people’s faces light up and how seeing the dog can change their entire day.”
Join our team
Parkview Pups is one of several benefit programs Parkview has to support its more than 15,000 co-workers. Recently certified as a Most Loved Workplace® by the Best Practice Institute, Parkview also uniquely offers volunteer time off (VTO), which may also be used for volunteering in the community or mental health time off; a quarterly lifestyle benefit stipend; flexible scheduling options and more.