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New members of the Ambulance Team are a paws-itive hit

Paramedics, Emma and Sophie pictured with assessor Steve from the Canine Concern Charity and Ted the Labrador
New members of the Ambulance Team are a paws-itive hit
15 April 2023

Our Ambulance Service has welcomed 12 special new recruits to their team this week to help reduce stress in the workplace.

Specialist Paramedic, Sophie Brockman, has implemented the free initiative to help reduce post workplace stress among her Ambulance Service colleagues.

Sophie said: “Due to the nature of our work our ambulance staff are regularly exposed to distressing situations. This can mean we are more vulnerable to developing significant mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, or the hidden problem of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

“Our NHS 111 and 999 hub staff are not immune from the stressful environment of emergency work either and they will also benefit from this new initiative. Our new four legged colleagues will support teams by visiting the Ambulance Station and spending time with staff when they can during breaks and downtime.”

While attending the annual Emergency Service Mental Health Symposium last year Sophie met a police dog handler who shared more information about how dogs can help improve wellbeing in the workplace. They put her in touch with the Canine Concern Charity based in Eastbourne who helped Sophie develop this voluntary programme.

The first recruit of the new intake was Ted, an 8 year old yellow Labrador. Owner and paramedic Emma Webb said: “Being able to reduce stress in the workplace and support our colleagues who are often working in challenging circumstances is in incredibly important.

“As well as being a paramedic at the Isle of Wight NHS Trust Ambulance Service, I am also a TRiM Manager (Trauma Risk Management), so know the importance of putting in the right support in place to help staff after they experience a traumatic event. So when Sophie shared her proposal to recruit some dogs to help colleagues reduce their stress I was more than happy to help.”

The experience of using therapy dogs has been well explored in the care of patients and service users, but more recently there has been interest in how dogs can help with maintaining the welfare of healthcare staff.

Evidence shows that interacting with dogs can decrease levels of cortisol and systolic blood pressure which are indicators of heightened stress. Research also indicates that within five minutes of interaction with a dog, a person’s stress levels can reduce, making the use of care dogs a practical intervention for the workplace.

Director of Operations for the Isle of Wight Ambulance Service, Victoria White, who has also volunteered her own dog Freddie for the scheme said:

“I have personally seen first hand what a positive difference dogs can make in the care home my Dad is in. As soon as Sophie put the proposal forward I knew this would have an incredible effect for staff.

“Everyone will have a different approach to help them de stress, for some it might be talking things through with family, friends and colleagues but for others it could be something as simple as stroking or hugging a dog. I am incredibly grateful to Sophie for working so hard to put this in place for our staff and to those staff who are volunteering their time to support this initiative. This is just one way we are making sure we look after and support our staff.”

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