Therapy dogs are making special visits as mental health support workers to the wards of frontline workers at a hospital in the Victorian town of Bendigo, Australia.

A survey of staff at the St John of God hospital found that 100% of caregivers felt a visit from a wellbeing dog increased happiness and reduced stress.

Meet Rosie – a health worker, helping health workers.

Tail wagging, this new furry member of staff is here to lighten the load at the St John of God hospital during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It’s amazing the effect that a dog has on a human being and the people and more so the staff and how it can help us, ourselves, make us strong enough to care for our patients,” explains Michelle Stares, CEO of St John of God Hospital.

Rosie’s job: to help nursing staff deal with the long and difficult hours at the hospital.

“Dogs do something really beautifully and naturally with people that’s about connection,” explains Grant Shannon, Founder Dogs Connect.

And Rosie’s work at the St John of God hospital in Bendigo has not gone unnoticed by front-line workers.

“Obviously the work is stressful, and lately it has been more stressful than others. But as soon as you see Rosie or Jack on the ward everything seems to just disappear.”

“There’s a lot of mental health struggles that people may not feel like that they can express. So seeing a dog and talking to someone, just having a friendly chat, is actually really great,” explains Sheridan.

After a successful trial late last year, these visits have become a permanent fixture and they’re popular with patients too.

“Usually word gets around very quickly that they’re here, so it’s always ‘Jack’s here’ or ‘Rosie’s here’ or there’s a dog,” she adds.

A survey of staff at the St John of God hospital found that 100 per cent of the hardworking caregivers felt a visit from a wellbeing dog like Rosie increased their happiness and reduced stress.

“It’s been fantastic, we’ve had nothing but positivity. Our staff look forward to the day the dog comes to visit,” says Stares.

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