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Sacred Heart Hospital on the Emerald Coast Launches Sacred Paws Pet Therapy Program
Posted: 4/9/2018

MIRAMAR BEACH, Fla. (Apr. 6, 2018) – Sacred Heart Hospital on the Emerald Coast (SHHEC) has started a new "Sacred Paws" Pet Therapy program which is a volunteer animal-assisted pet therapy program.

Volunteer animal-assisted activities are utilized within Sacred Heart Health System as short, diversional meet-and-greet activities that can produce positive health effects.

SHHEC currently has two therapy dogs, Annie, a Golden Retriever and Duffy, a West Highland terrier. They and their handler or a volunteer will visit patients on the in-patient floor and out-patient waiting rooms and common areas.

“The program is for our patients as well as our staff and the response so far has been amazing,” said Sharon Abele, Volunteer Services Manager. “These furry friends have brought lots of smiles to patients, families and staff who are loving the experience.” she added.

Visit content occurs naturally and visits are as long or as short as necessary. To ensure that both the handler and animal are an appropriate team that interacts with patients/families, a Responsible Adult Handler (RAH) who is a specially trained professional, accompanies the therapy dogs at all times and assume responsibility for the animal while on the hospital campus.

“The Sacred Paws dogs have brought the staff much needed relief during stressful times,” said Melissa Day, Nurse Manager-Medical/Surgical Unit. You can truly feel the environment of the unit change when we see Annie or Duffy arrive. It is always the bright spot of our week, and we look forward to bringing more dogs on board,” she added.

Animal-assisted therapy is a growing field using dogs or other animals to help people recover from or better cope with health problems. Therapy animals can provide immense benefits to patients and has been proven to reduce depression, anxiety, pain and fatigue in patients with a variety of health conditions as well as reinforce rehabilitation goals.

Many people are beginning to recognize the extent to which pets can facilitate therapy for an assortment of human problems. Our companion animals are known to offer us many health benefits, most importantly, abundant and unconditional love.

For more information about the Sacred Paws Pet Therapy program or to become involved please contact Sharon Abele at (850) 278-3081 or email sabele@ascension.org

About Sacred Heart Hospital on the Emerald Coast
Sacred Heart Hospital on the Emerald Coast is a 76-bed community hospital located in Miramar Beach that offers comprehensive healthcare for emergency care, cardiovascular care, cancer care, obstetrics, surgery, orthopedics and spine care. Since opening its doors in January 2003, Sacred Heart Hospital on the Emerald Coast has been recognized five times as one of the nation’s 100 Top Hospitals for patient satisfaction by Truven Health Analytics. Sacred Heart Medical Group offers physician offices for a variety of specialties across the area. For more information, visit www.sacredheartemerald.org.

About Sacred Heart Health System
On the Gulf Coast, Ascension operates Sacred Heart Health System based in Pensacola, Fla. and Providence Hospital and Providence Medical Group based in Mobile, Ala. Together, these Ascension healthcare facilities have served Gulf Coast communities for more than 160 years and they employ more than 6,600 associates. Across the region, Ascension provided more than $113 million in community benefit and care of persons living in poverty in fiscal year 2016. Ascension is a faith-based healthcare organization committed to delivering compassionate, personalized care to all, with special attention to persons living in poverty and those most vulnerable. Ascension is the largest non-profit health system in the U.S. and the world’s largest Catholic health system, operating 2,500 sites of care – including 141 hospitals and more than 30 senior living facilities – in 24 states and the District of Columbia. For more on Sacred Heart Health System, visit www.sacred-heart.org.
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