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Two Brookwood Baptist Health hospitals partner with Hand in Paw

May 2, 2016

Partnership aims to improve physical, mental and emotional health of patients

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – May 2, 2016 – Two Brookwood Baptist Hospitals, Princeton Baptist Medical Center (Princeton) and Shelby Baptist Medical Center (Shelby), launched a new partnership with Hand In Paw to implement animal-assisted treatment modalities across multiple medical units. The addition of the two hospitals serves as an extension of Hand in Paw's long-time existing partnership with Brookwood Baptist Medical Center, another Brookwood Baptist Health hospital. Hand-In-Paw is a nonprofit organization that works to improve the physical, mental and emotional health of children and adults through the use of professionally trained therapy dogs.

“The staff at Princeton utilizes a comprehensive approach to medical treatment that is highly individualized and protocol-driven,” said Betsy Postlethwait, president at Princeton. “This partnership with Hand In Paw will strengthen our ability to deliver exceptional care by creating an environment conducive to healing and positivity.”

In the few weeks since the programs began at both hospitals, staff have already witnessed improvements in patient engagement.

“I think the patients have really enjoyed the visits from the dogs. We have had patients that rarely ever participate in group sessions really connect with them and engage more when they are here,” Tamesha Carter, MS OTR/L, Occupational Therapist, Shelby Baptist Medical Center said.

Hand In Paw will offer its services weekly to multiple departments at Princeton and Shelby, including Geriatric Psychiatry, General Psychiatry, Oncology and Palliative Care. Canine therapy has proven effective in treating a multitude of physical and psychological ailments, providing an additional form of relief for patients with serious health conditions. Hand-In-Paw volunteers and animals are extensively trained and tested for behavioral consistency and temperament, ensuring safe interactions in therapeutic environments.

“The medical team at Shelby recognizes that animal-assisted therapy is a vital component of a holistic approach to health care,” said Bob Phillips, president at Shelby. “The services provided by Hand-In-Paw foster an environmental condition that empowers both patients and physicians to achieve greater treatment outcomes.” 

Animal-assisted therapy is particularly effective in reducing patient anxiety, thereby decreasing stress, which can be detrimental to the healing process. Hand-In-Paw will work directly with Princeton’s medical staff to determine appropriate interaction levels between its patients on a case-by-case basis. Trained handlers will accompany the animals into participating units to guide patient interactions and ensure mutual safety.

“We’re proud to partner with Princeton and Shelby to offer our services to patients in need of additional relief,” said Laura Cardwell, executive director at Hand In Paw. “Our professionally-trained animals help create a soothing, comfortable environment and provide emotional and physical support for patients in the midst of a health crisis.”

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