HCA Virginia announces a new pet therapy program at John Randolph Medical Center, enhancing the patient experience in the Tri-Cities region.

Studies have shown that a visit by a trained therapy dog can have a positive effect on a patient’s healing process. Launching the program at John Randolph is an opportunity to expand holistic care at the hospital. 

"Uplifting a person’s spirits when they’re feeling low or haven’t been feeling well is so important to their healing,” said Beverly Epps, the hospital’s volunteer services coordinator who is in charge of the program. “Having a moment in their day where their spirits are lifted is significant and something they will always remember being associated with their hospital visit.” 

The dogs are Willow, an Australian Shepherd; Ziggy and Riley, Golden Retrievers; and Roe, a Whippet (mini greyhound). In pet therapy, volunteers and their dogs who have completed training programs are brought to the patient's bedside with the patient's consent. John Randolph’s pet therapy visits will occur four times each month on the military unit and the medical/surgical unit.  

All four dogs have been certified under the Alliance of Therapy Dogs, a national organization that provides testing and certification for volunteers with their dogs. In addition to having a gentle disposition and enjoying people, requirements include good physical health, vaccinations, preventative medications, flea and tick treatments, and regular grooming.   

John Randolph is the latest HCA Virginia facility to launch a pet therapy program. Henrico Doctors’ Hospital, Retreat Doctors’ Hospital, Chippenham Hospital, Johnston-Willis Hospital, Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center, and LewisGale Hospital Pulaski have existing programs.