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Pet the Pooch: A Great Way to Reduce Stress!

Heather-Matthew-and-PoochThe dog days of summer came early to HUP's Center for Nursing Renewal and staff welcomed adoptable dogs and kittens from the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Although therapy dogs are already widely used to help patients, military veterans, and others, this new partnership with SPCA brings these animals in to relieve the anxiety sometimes felt by doctors, nurses, and other staff caring for patients.

The mission is two-fold: help these loveable animals find a home and help employees melt away stress while spending a few minutes with the four-legged visitors. The program is among the first in the country to utilize animals to relieve employee stress.

Heather Matthew, MSN, a clinical nurse specialist in the ED, started the program, inspried by  HUPs Pups therapy dog program for patients. “They would play with the dogs and it made a huge difference on the stress level and morale in the Emergency Department,” said Matthew. “So, I thought of teaming up with the SPCA to bring them directly to staff.”

With support from Victoria L. Rich, PhD, chief nurse executive, AnnMarie Papa, DNP, clinical director of Kitty-pictureEmergency Nursing, and the SPCA, the project has grown to a regular event at HUP. Seeing early success, Matthew plans to promote this model to other hospitals nation-wide.

“Basically, when you take that five-minute break out of your day, the pick-me-up that makes all the difference,” Mathew said. “That animal isn’t judging you, they don’t know that maybe you’ve had to give a family some bad news and your heart is breaking over it.”

“And there are many medical benefits to owning a pet as well,” she added.  

To learn how you can adopt a cat or dog from the Pennsylvania SPCA, contact Kathy Giles at 215-426-6304 x 272 or  


Photo caption: Thanks for HUP's Pet the Pooch program, Heather Matthew of the ED (above left) and Audrey Blewer of the Center for Resuscitation Medicine were able to bond with adoptable dogs and kittens from the SPCA.

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