MultiCare Tacoma General Hospital has launched a new K9 security program to provide an added level of safety for patients, visitors and staff.
“Emotions can run high in hospital settings,” said Sharon Oxendale, President/COO of MultiCare Tacoma General/Allenmore Hospitals. “Having a K9 presence is sometimes all you need to diffuse emotional situations that sometimes occur in emergency rooms.”
At the center of the program is a three-year-old German Shepherd named Officer Ben and a K9 security officer named Brian Phillips.
During a three-month pilot program, they helped reduce the number of assaults by 33 percent when compared to the same 90-day period in 2018.
“We interacted with hundreds of staff members, patients and visitors and I can’t remember a single person who had a negative reaction to Ben,” said Phillips. “A lot of people refer to him as a ‘rock star’ and are clearly happy to have him around.”
In addition to helping de-escalate more than 60 incidents during the pilot program, Ben also provided inspiration and comfort to some of the hospital’s patients, including young children that were facing stressful situations.
“It was really gratifying to see Ben interacting with some of the kids – and really a lot of adults too – who were facing tough situations and just wanted some down time to hang with Ben,” said MultiCare’s Regional Director of Security Services, Emergency Management and Business Continuity Radford Garrison. “Animals like Ben can have a calming effect and can help bring smiles to kids who might otherwise feel overly emotional.”
MultiCare is looking to add another dog to the canine unit by the end of this fall with patrols at both Auburn Medical Center and Covington Medical Center. Leah Grout