Hennepin EMS welcomes 4-legged members of “Hennepin Heroes” program

ems staff member with patient and black dog, hennepin ems welcomes 4-legged members, hennepin heroes program, paw patrol, volunteer canines, north star therapy animals

There’s a new paw patrol helping EMS (Emergency Medical Services) staff at Hennepin Healthcare alleviate on-the-job stress that can follow them back to the office, ambulance garage, or even home. Friendly volunteer canines from North Star Therapy Animals are part of the Hennepin Heroes program designed to provide comfort, spread joy, and reinforce positive communication.

“We cannot control the stressful situations that are required of our paramedics throughout their shift, but we can control the environment is which they start and end their day,” explains Erin Hedge, Deputy Chief of Staff for Hennepin EMS, who began researching pet therapy options after seeing the mental health benefits that this type of therapy can offer. “The instant lift in mood and decrease in anxiety are some of the medically proven benefits of having the calming presence of a therapy animal,” she said.

Paramedics, dispatchers, and other staff at the Level I Trauma Center are at ground zero for critical medical emergencies throughout Hennepin County. Often responding to unspeakable situations involving children or adults with life-threatening injuries, these professionals have to return to their offices – and families – while still processing emotions, which can be tough for any caregiver.

hennepin ems staff and dogs in front of ambulance, hennepin ems welcomes 4-legged members, hennepin heroes program, paw patrol, volunteer canines, north star therapy animalsHennepin EMS has partnered with North Star Therapy Animals to provide onsite canine visits for EMS staff in dispatch, EMS education, and operations. Hennepin Heroes and their handlers will be available at shift changes and other critical times as needed.

“As part of the trial period, we had multiple dog/trainer teams visiting each of the three areas to see if the animals could handle the environment – with sirens and other unexpected noises,” said Hedge. “Employees reported immediately feeling their moods lifted and stress relief and most of them would actually wait around before or after their shift to see the animals. This reaction certainly confirmed the value of our ‘Hennepin Heroes.’”

Now that orientation is complete, seven teams will be visiting every month. On Thursday, July 25, 2019, Hennepin EMS officially welcomed Zelda, Dutchess, Trotsky, Gus, Rusty, and Herbie to its “Hennepin Heroes” program.

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