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DiversityNursing Blog

The healing power of dogs and more news for nurses from Spring 2013

Posted by Alycia Sullivan

Wed, Jul 17, 2013 @ 10:35 AM

describe the imageThe Healing Power of Dogs

It was a tough case: A five-year-old girl awaiting a bowel and pancreas transplant, who had essentially given up the will to live. She hadn’t spoken a word to anyone in days. But that was before Gracie, all two pounds of her, came to visit. Gracie, a Chihuahua rescue who belongs to Danielle Palmieri, R.N., is a therapy dog in the People Animal Connection Program (PAC) at UCLA. As soon as Gracie entered her room, the five-year-old perked up. A nurse even came in to see what had happened—the patient’s vitals had returned to normal for the first time in days. “She started talking and continued for 20 minutes,” says Palmieri, a high-risk labor and delivery nurse at UCLA. “They had pulled out every toy in that hospital, but nothing worked like Gracie.”

In March, PBS will air an episode of “Shelter Me,” a series looking at the positive impact of adopted shelter pets, that features PAC (see for dates). PAC is one of the largest pet therapy programs in the nation and its dogs make 900 visits a month to critically ill children and adults. It’s a trend that’s growing at healthcare facilities around the country. “There’s a lot of documentation showing that being with pets lowers blood pressure, and normalizes respiration,” says Jack Barron, PAC’s former director. “I’ve even seen people come out of a coma in a dog’s presence. People ask, ‘But how do you know it was the pet?’ and I say, ‘How do you know it wasn’t?’”

Palmieri tours the hospital with Gracie in her off hours, but she’s not the only nurse who supports the program. According to Barron, pet therapy wouldn’t happen without the nurses, who lay the groundwork so that dogs can make the visits. The nurses get some of the benefits, too. PAC dogs are also brought round to visit the nurses, especially those in critical care. “It calms them down and puts smiles on their faces,” says Barron. “It’s rewarding to see the nurses have a few relaxing minutes.”

Sister Act

How many times have you had a brilliant idea, only to shrug it off believing it would be too arduous to pursue? California nurses (and sisters) Terri Barton-Salinas and Gail Barton-Hay also came up with a brilliant idea—only they saw it through to fruition. If things go according to plan, you may be seeing it in your workplace some time soon.

Their patented idea: ColorSafe IV Lines, color-coated tubing designed to prevent medication errors. “When I worked in the ICU, the IV lines were like a big pile of spaghetti,” says Barton-Hay, now an OR nurse at Monterey Peninsula Surgery Center. “We were sitting around telling war stories and Terri said, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if tubing were colored?’ We did some research, went to a lawyer and now here we are.”

The sisters (one other sister and their mom are nurses too) found a manufacturer and even began selling the lines until they hit a bump in the road–the FDA asked for paperwork that it had previously waived. They complied and expect approval soon. “As nurses, we care about our patients and want nothing but the best for them so we’ve just kept plugging away,” says Barton-Salinas, a labor and delivery nurse at Kaiser Permanent in Vallejo. “If we prevent just one medical error it will be worth it.” The duo’s advise to other would-be nurse-inventors: Don’t take no for an answer.

How Sweet It Is

Clever cookie-maker Jaclyn Shaffer devised these medical- themed cookies by getting creative with cutters she already had. Check out, and for instructions click here.

It’s a Mad, Mad World

Even if you’ve never been the target of a scalpel-throwing surgeon, no one has to tell you that physicians can behave badly. But did you know it’s so common that accredited hospitals must have a written policy on how to handle doctors’ disruptive behavior? Anger not only makes the workplace uncomfortable, it can compromise care.

Enter Anderson & Anderson, a certified anger management facilitator that frequently works with physicians, many of them surgeons. Stress, dealing with insurance companies that limit treatments and a perfectionistic nature all contribute to doctor rage, says George Anderson, director of training. “Plus, doctors put in a lot of hours to get their degrees, which means they don’t have as much time in life to develop interpersonal relationships.”

Okay, but how’s that going to help you deal with verbal abuse? When you witness bouts of anger, bring it to the attention of the appropriate department or committee at your hospital—and also try a personal approach. “Ask if you can speak to the doctor privately for a minute,” advises Anderson, “then ask if there’s anything you can do to help.”

Emotional Rescue 

Hospitals are well equipped to deal with medical emergencies, but crises of the spirit? Not so much. Enter Code Lavender, which, like a Code Blue, offers a form of resuscitation—but without the chest compressions. Instead, when a Code Lavender is called—whether the person in need is a patient, family member or someone on staff dealing with an emotional or spiritual crisis—the rapid response team comes armed with a bevy of potential therapies. Depending on the extent and nature of the need, they may provide reiki, healing touch therapy, aromatherapy, guided imagery, nutrition therapy and/or pastoral care.

The brainchild of ExperiaHealth, a company devoted to improving the patient and staff experience, Code Lavender addresses everything from a patient’s fear of an upcoming surgery to a family member’s worry or stress about a loved one and a nurse’s despair over having just lost a patient.

The program had its beginnings in a simple act of collective goodwill. “When a patient was in crisis, everyone on the hospital staff was asked to stop and send a healing intention or prayer to his room,” says Bridget Duffy, MD, chief executive officer at ExperiaHealth. “Eventually, Code Lavender morphed into not only sending intentions, but sending a healing services team to anyone in need, be it patient, family member or staff.”  

Several hospitals around the country now have a healing team in place, including the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio and Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Hollywood, Fla. And it’s been of particular benefit to healthcare workers: At the Cleveland Clinic, 40 percent of all Code Lavender requests were from employees.

What’s On Nurses’ Nightstands?

Four books worth a read.

Get Motivated! Overcome Any Obstacle, Achieve Any Goal, and Accelerate Your Success with Motivational DNA by Tamara Lowe and Rudolph Giuliani. (Doubleday)

I’m fascinated by how to effectively teach/motivate patients (and myself)
to take charge of their own health. This book looks at how different personalities get motivated and has already been valuable in helping me determine care plans for my patients. –Jonathan Steele, RN, holistic nurse in private practice, Scranton, PA

A Fistful of Collars: A Chet and Bernie Mystery by Spencer Quinn

This is number five in a series of
 private eye novels narrated by a mixed-breed German Shepherd who couldn’t quite make the cut for K-9 duty…
but neither could his 
owner. Great romp of a read for stress-busting after a long day at work. –Coleen Kenny, RN, MS, division of geriatrics, Virginia Commonwealth University Hospital
in Richmond

Maestro: A Surprising Story About Leading by Listening by Roger Nierenberg

This is about how a symphony orchestra solved problems. I picked it up because I felt it would be inspirational and, it is. It’s helping me to become a better listener, something I feel we all need to be reminded of from time to time. –Melina Thorpe, RN, director of Cancer Services, Glendale (CA) Adventist Medical Center

House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III

I like it because the story builds up to something melancholy and tragic, while also giving some insight into human behavior and motivation. –Melanie Lukesh, FNP-BC, family nurse practitioner, Canton Potsdam Hospital

How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization by Franklin Foer

I am fascinated at how sports, in particular soccer (Futball), meld with society and stretch beyond the pitch (field). –Kimberly Bertini, BSN, RN, RNC, Magnet Program Coordinator, Cancer Treatment Centers of America at Midwestern Regional Medical Center, Zion, Illinois

From the Spring 2013 issue of Scrubs

Topics: therapy dogs, medical themed food, colored IVs, verbal abuse, Code Lavender, nurse books, RN

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