MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – EMS staff at Hennepin Healthcare are getting a little help dealing with stress from some 4-legged friends.
In an effort to relieve on-the-job stress that can follow them home, pet therapy is being used to lift their moods.
WCCO's Reg Chapman has more on the new partnership between North Star Therapy Animals and first responders.
"Pet therapy is medically proven to relieve stress and lift moods," said Erin Hedge, deputy chief of staff at Hennepin EMS.
These friendly canines are part of the Hennepin Heroes program, which is designed to provide comfort and spread joy.
"I think dogs and animals can connect with people in a way that people can't. I think just a touch or a lick or a shake can provide more comfort in just that moment of time than we know as people can do for another person," Kathy Langmade.
Hennepin Healthcare is ground zero of critical medical emergencies throughout the county. EMS crews respond to situations that include shootings, overdoses and car crashes. These therapy dogs are used before and after first responders' shifts.
"It gives them something to look forward to when they do start and end their shift. We also can provide this service as a debriefing session. We can call North Star Pet Therapy and they will come and debrief during a critical incident," Hedge said.
The dogs roam from dispatch to the breakroom. Once a week, their job is to help EMS workers process their emotions.
"We cannot control what happens throughout the course of their shift, but we can control the environment," Hedge said.
For dispatchers like Allie Ruminski, not knowing what happens after they send a crew to a situation can be frustrating.
"It's nice having a furry companion around sometimes," Ruminski said.
This attention helps ease the anxiety and stress associated with a job where seconds matter.
"He is so loveable. He makes me feel great," Ruminski said.
Seven teams of therapy dogs including Gus, Max and Herbie will make sure all shifts at Hennepin Healthcare are covered.
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