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Surgical-type, N95, or KN95 face masks are now required within all AHN facilities. Cloth face masks are no longer permitted, as they do not provide the best level of protection against Coronavirus.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

AHN Allegheny Valley Offering Volunteer Opportunities for Therapy Dog and Handler Teams

NATRONA HEIGHTS, PA – Allegheny Health Network’s (AHN) Allegheny Valley Hospital (AVH) invites qualified therapy dog and handler teams to join its pet therapy program, which is expanding in order to share this experience with more patients and staff.

Studies show that pet therapy provides wide ranging benefits for adult and pediatric patients in a hospital environment. A 12-minute animal-assisted therapy (AAT) visit helps improve heart and lung functions, lowering blood pressure and positively impacting anxiety scores by as much as 24 percent. Canine visitors help reduce pain levels and feelings of loneliness and isolation among patients, elevating their spirits and promoting healing.

“It’s truly heartwarming to witness the reaction of a patient to a therapy dog,” said Kimberly Giovannelli, Director of Volunteer Resources for AVH. “Nothing brings a smile to a patient’s face like a friendly, tail-wagging dog.”

Pet therapy has also proven effective as a form of stress relief for healthcare workers, especially during the pandemic. Along with working long irregular hours, frontline staff provide emotional support to very sick patients and their loved ones, which takes its toll. “Sometimes, all they need is to hug a therapy dog to help them get through what continues to be a very challenging time for healthcare workers,” said Giovannelli.

AVH therapy dogs visit patients in their rooms, in common areas on the mental health units and in the rehabilitation facilities. They also interact with staff in various departments. “Adding therapy dog and handler teams to our program would allow us to extend our reach into other units, and increase the frequency of visits, which would help brighten the day of more patients and staff,” said Giovannelli.

Interested therapy dog owner/handlers age 18 or older may apply on-line at https://www.ahn.org/volunteer-application. Therapy dogs may be any breed, but must be certified by a recognized organization, such as Therapets or Therapy Dogs International. For more information, including schedule options, contact Kimberly Giovanelli at avhvol@ahn.org or 724-226-7370.

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