Finding a way to relieve the stress in the life-and-death world of the hospital used to mean grabbing a quick smoke break.
Now doctors, nurses and other staff at the University of Pennsylvania (HUP) can turn to something healthy for them and guaranteed to bring a smile on.
Call them comfort canines.
Pet therapy dogs are familiar in the halls of hospitals across the country for their role in helping patients.
But HUP has launched what may be the first-in-the-nation "puppy breaks," where staff members can come and cuddle, kiss and play with a fun-loving ball of fur.
The best part? The dogs enlisted as "pet therapists" come from the Pennsylvania SPCA and are available for adoption..
At the first session held at the Center for Nursing Renewal last month all three dogs were adopted.
Three more homeless dogs made the trip for the session last Tuesday drawing 75 staff members.
Organizers said there was interest among several staff members in adopting those dogs.
PSPCA chief executive officer Jerry Buckley said the program is a win-win for animals and people.
"The bond between humans and animals is well documented," he said. "Not only are these dogs providing stress release for staff, but the opposite is also true. Having time away from the shelter and interacting with people in a positive way gives our dogs much needed enrichment and socialization and helps increase their chances for a successful adoption."
Nurse Heather Matthew, who helped organize the event, said it was one of the best days of her professional career. "We are not only providing a therapeutic service to our staff, we have been able to partner with people and dogs in our community to serve a dual purpose and hopefully bring happiness to everyone involved.”
The hospital says it would like to run the "puppy breaks' several times a month.
(Photo: Heather Matthew, MSN, RN, CEN, with Tiger, a -month-old Pit bull mix)