Man’s best friend, right? Well, what about a patient’s best friend? Can a dog bring the same kind of joy, comfort, and happiness to a scared and anxious  patient in a hospital or care facility as they do to your family and your home?

Yes! At least that’s what ILS Senior Vice President Jenna Kinkade’s daughter says after a visit to Nemours Children’s Hospital in Central Florida this week.

It turns out “Sunshine”, as he is known, is a Golden Retriever who likes eating peanut butter, smelling shoes, and being petted (all good qualities in a dog) and he also has his own business card!

It may seem like all fun and games. I mean, who doesn’t want to hang out with a friendly dog while they wait to see the doctor? But there are real benefits to having a dog like Sunshine in the waiting area to greet patients.

Studies show there are emotional and physical benefits to having a dog as a pet. Not only are they great to cuddle with on the couch and to play fetch with in the backyard, but the bond we have with pets can also help heal emotional wounds and even improve physical health, such as lowering blood pressure and stress.

When we talk about things that reduce patient’s fears, anxieties, and uncertainty, it’s hard not to think of the famous Florence Nightingale quote, which we often share in workshops and training sessions with our clients: “Apprehension, uncertainty, waiting, expectation, fear of surprise, do a patient more harm than any exertion.”

I don’t know how much it costs to have Sunshine volunteer at the hospital. But I can tell you whatever the cost, the patients think it’s worth it. He may be the furriest volunteer at the hospital but he sure is living up to his name. Sunshine definitely helped to calm her fears and he brightened this little girl’s day.

Not every doctor’s office or hospital has the ability to have a dog on hand to comfort and greet patients. So think outside the box a little. What could you or your team do to make the patient experience of waiting a little more relaxing, welcoming, and calming?