KNOXVILLE, Tenn., June 12, 2014 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The University of Tennessee Medical Center is the first hospital in the state of Tennessee to implement a dedicated, full-time K-9 program. Representatives from the medical center's Security Department say the addition of two dogs to the force will serve as a calming influence for patients, visitors and staff while also providing an extra layer of safety at the region's academic medical center.
The presence and calming effect of the dogs are expected to be a great benefit during this time of rapid growth at the medical center. As an example, the Emergency Department at the medical center, according to hospital records, has seen an approximate 35% increase in patient volumes in the past five years.
"We've been fortunate to have a very safe campus and we're confident from our research of other hospitals around the country that the addition of the K-9 program will further enhance safety and security for everyone at the medical center," said Lt. Brandon Ingram, who oversees the K-9 Program for the Security Department at The University of Tennessee Medical Center. "The dogs will provide comfort and serve as a tension reliever for our patients and their loved ones who are going through a stressful situation as well for our team members who work so hard."
While the dogs are highly trained for numerous safety aspects, Ingram said, their obedience training makes them quite approachable, with permission from the handlers. Ingram said hospitals with similar programs report that the dogs often have a therapeutic effect on visitors and employees alike.
The dogs, both Belgian Malinois, earned certifications this week and will immediately go on patrol at the medical center. Koda, a 60-pound, 21-month-old male with a calm demeanor, and Kimber, a 75-pound, 2-year-old female who views every movement around her with heightened awareness, and their handlers just completed an intense five-week long training at the Knoxville, Tenn. area location of the internationally renowned dog training facility Cobra Canine.
"The dogs are such a great added layer of comfort, especially for staff in busy areas like the Emergency Department," said Matt Forsyth, senior trainer at Cobra Canine. "The presence is next to none. We walked around the hospital one day and it was amazing to see people smile and watch their eyes light up."
A $25,000 grant from the medical center's auxiliary covered the purchase price of the dogs. Volunteers with the auxiliary hold fundraisers throughout the year to help provide additional equipment and other needs for the hospital.
The mission of The University of Tennessee Medical Center, the region's only hospital to achieve status as a Magnet® recognized organization, is to serve through healing, education and discovery. UT Medical Center, a 581-bed, not-for-profit academic medical center, serves as a referral center for Eastern Tennessee, Southeast Kentucky and Western North Carolina. The medical center, the region's only Level I Trauma Center, is one of the largest employers in Knoxville. For more information about The University of Tennessee Medical Center, visit online at www.utmedicalcenter.org.
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Source:The University of Tennessee Medical Center