INDUSTRY
November 6, 2019

This Is Why K9s Are The Newest Team Members At Hospitals

This Is Why K9s Are The Newest Team Members At Hospitals
Portia Wofford By: Portia Wofford

K9 units work diligently in airports, assisting those with disabilities and protecting the public as police officers. Now, they're appearing in hospitals, assisting with security measures and sniffing out harmful pathogens which may infect humans.  

U.S. healthcare facilities use trained dogs to 

  • Sniff out contraband
  • Deter violence
  • Apprehend threatening suspects

K9s Patrolling Facilities

Combating violence is one use for these highly skilled and trained pups. According to PubMed, research shows that facilities with K9 units have seen a reduction in crime and violence. A well-trained K9 can patrol the outside of the hospital as well as patient care areas. And with the typical K9 being utilized for eight to ten years, K9s are long-term and cost-effective. 

In response to an increase in violence against healthcare workers, Providence Health Care in Spokane, Washington added a dog and handler to its security team. As of January, Sarge — a German Shepard — had been deployed twice to help defuse situations. 

Ryan Nelson, director of security at Providence, told Security Today the primary role of the K9s is to keep caregivers, patients, and visitors safe, citing that a visible K9 unit provides an extra sense of security. 

Later this year, Providence St. Mary Medical Center will welcome a new K9 unit. The hospital noticed a rising trend in violence and now plans to add the K9 security program as part of its interventions to combat violence. Michael Smith, St. Mary’s security officer a K9 program coordinator, will travel to the Alabama Canine Law Enforcement Center to be paired with a German shepherd and undergo eight weeks of training. The center has trained dogs for more than 1,500 police departments in 28 countries.

Sniffing out C-Diff

In Vancouver, hospitals are utilizing K9s to sniff out Clostridium difficile (C-Diff). Two English Springer Spaniels — Angus and Dodger — are a part of the staff at Vancouver General Hospital where they do scans for C-Diff. 

According to the Vancouver Courier, the K9s are used to detect C-Diff in places of the facility not regularly checked or cleaned. The Courier reports that between May 1, 2017, and October 31, 2018, Angus and Dodger searched 659 clinical areas and alerted on C. diff bacteria 391 times or 54 percent of their searches. The dogs have discovered C-Diff inside unusual places. One place, a toilet paper dispenser, caused the hospital to look at its cleaning protocols and even change the design of the dispenser. 

The K9 project costs Vancouver General Hospital $300,000/year; however, the cost is less than the costs of identifying and testing for C-Diff through a lab. Allison Muniak, director of quality and patient safety and infection control, told the Vancouver Courier using the K9s is cost-effective and is reducing wait times associated with identifying the bug through lab testing.

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Portia Wofford is a staff development and quality improvement nurse, content strategist, healthcare writer, entrepreneur, and nano-influencer. Chosen as a brand ambassador or collaborative partner for various organizations, Wofford strives to empower nurses by offering nurses resources for development–while helping healthcare organizations and entrepreneurs create engaging content. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter for her latest.

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