Miriam and Monica are first year students at the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy and Practice. As social workers in training, their studies are rigorous and coupled with 24 hours per week in field practice work. Miriam and Monica are completing their field work at Penn Medicine Radiation Oncology. Since the beginning of their placements, they have sought out weekly visits with Finn to help them cope with the stresses of school and field work. “Thursdays are a special day[for us]. We were sure to implement a visit with Finn into our schedules; it helps us get through the day.”
Both were not expecting to see a therapy dog in radiation oncology. When she first heard of this integrative practice, Monica thought, “how forward thinking and inclusive of different types of healing” needed for patients. Monica sees Finn as a resource of support, affection and distraction to her patients, their caregivers, and the staff. Monica had never thought about dogs and social work; but her interactions with Finn have inspired her to want to do therapy dog work.
For Miriam, being exposed to patients going through chemotherapy and radiation treatments at the same time was eye opening. She recognized quickly the need for patients and caregivers to have many different types of support—even a therapy dog in the waiting room. Miriam knows the patients look forward to Finn’s visits. She hopes the program is able to expand so that there are canine comforts in the radiation waiting room everyday.
Self care is a key component to maintaining oneself as an oncology care professional. Self care includes any purposeful actions a person takes to care for their physical, mental, spiritual and emotional health. This process is unique for everyone. Self care techniques that work for one may not work for another. Finn brings another method of self care to the staff in radiation oncology. “There is a lightness and a normality…when Finn is here…he helps [us] forget about the stress and tasks of the day and reset.” Pressing that reset button is so important when caring for people with cancer. One cannot serve from an empty vessel.
For more information or questions about animal assisted therapy and cancer patients, contact Christina Bach, [email protected]
Healing Paws is a joint project between OncoLink and the Department of Radiation Oncology, Penn Medicine. Finn, the therapy dog, is a registered therapy dog through Therapy Dogs International (TDI®).
Photos by Christina Bach, MSW, LCSW, OSW-C
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