Tartu hospital emergency room employs dogs to reduce staff stress

A 'happiness specialist' dog working at Tartu University Hospital.
A 'happiness specialist' dog working at Tartu University Hospital. Source: ERR

Working as a doctor or nurse in an emergency room can be pretty tough. To help reduce staff stress levels, Tartu University Hospital has now taken on four dogs, Herakles, Lenna, Nala and Piper, who work in the emergency room as "happiness specialists."

Mari Teugas-Koit, a senior nurse at the University of Tartu Hospital's emergency room, told ETV's "Ringvaate," that the idea to bring in dogs to help out came after a colleague had adopted a puppy.

"We could see how beneficial it was for their emotional well-being," Teugas-Koit said. "(After that), colleagues would sometimes ask whether we could have dogs in the emergency room, so we started to think, well 'why not?'"

According to Teugas-Koit, studies have shown, that five minutes spent with a dog is the equivalent of getting 20 minutes of peace and quiet, something which is often impossible to achieve during a busy shift at the emergency room. "Five minutes of that kind of positive energy can recharge your batteries for the whole day," she said.

A 'happiness specialist' dog working at Tartu University Hospital. Source: ERR

Now, the hospital's emergency room employs four four-legged "happiness specialists:" Herakles, Lenna, Nala and Piper, all of whom are highly valued members of staff. However, dealing with patients, who visit the emergency room for medical treatment, is not part of their job description.

This is because, while some patients would certainly love the chance to pet Herakles, Lenna, Nala and Piper as they sit in the waiting room, others, who may be afraid of dogs, or are at the hospital for treatment on bites from much less-friendly K9s, may be less keen.

According to Herakles' owner, doctor Aime Keis, who works at Tartu University Hospital, the "happiness specialist" visits the emergency room for joy-sharing sessions lasting between 45 and 60 minutes a time, giving all the staff chance to pet and cuddle him.

A 'happiness specialist' dog working at Tartu University Hospital. Source: ERR

"Because there's a lot of talk about emergency rooms being busy and people burning out, it's a great way for us to de-stress a little," she said.

It certainly seems that the "happiness specialists" are doing an exemplary job. According to Teugas-Koit, a staff survey conducted three months after they began working at the emergency room confirmed, that employee satisfaction had increased significantly.


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Editor: Michael Cole

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