Last week marked the launch of the BC Emergency Health Services Vancouver Dispatch Operations Centre dog therapy pilot program.
The program will see qualified therapy dogs from St. John’s Ambulance visiting call-takers, dispatchers and Patient Transfer Network (PTN) staff twice a week for three months.
The dog visits aim to provide some distraction, relief and joy to dispatch staff to help better manage occupation-related stress.
“You can get pretty fatigued here after a day of calls, sometimes even after only one call, depending on what it was,” dispatcher Sharon Roselli said. “But these visits from the dogs really help.”
There will be three dogs (and their handlers) visiting Vancouver Dispatch every Tuesday:
- Hairy, the Retriever
- Mo, the Terrier
- Maia, the Border Collie
Starting a dog therapy program in dispatch was suggested by dispatch supervisor Kyle Ewasiuk, who began bringing his miniature golden retriever Abby to visit his staff, staff at Virtual Way and paramedics at Metro Vancouver ambulance stations a few months ago.
“She lit up the room. It changed from a very dark environment to a very positive environment very quickly. It changed the morale for the day,” Ewasiuk said.
The goal of the pilot is to gauge whether the dog visits improve the emotional well-being of BCEHS staff. If successful, the program will expand to the Kamloops and Victoria dispatch centres.