4-Legged Associate Brightens Work Day At BVHS

(From Blanchard Valley Health System)

Blanchard Valley Health System is a diverse environment, where associates come from varied backgrounds. However, recently, a four-legged associate named Pace joined the team in order to relieve the stress within the health system.

Pace is a golden retriever/goldendoodle mix who will turn four later this fall. She is a facility dog and the working partner of Michael Cifranic, MSN, RN, a nursing recruitment and retention specialist.

Cifranic was first paired with Pace more than two years ago through the organization Canine Assistants while working at another healthcare facility. When he moved to Northwest Ohio and began working for BVHS, so did Pace.

Canine Assistants dogs are not given typical obedience training, but instead learn to do their job through an approach called “bond-based teaching.” The goal is to create a safe, trusting, loving relationship between dog and handler so that the dog feels confident and able to do what needs to be done.

Cifranic said this is particularly helpful in a hospital setting, where there may be disruptions like alarms. Pace is taught to feel safe and remain calm. She rarely barks, on or off duty.

Pace does not visit patients at Blanchard Valley Hospital, but instead provides staff support. Cifranic has found that associates welcome her with open arms…literally.

Cifranic said health care can involve a lot of stress. A big source of stress is the day-in, day-out challenge of knowing you have a lot to do in a limited time frame and are trying “to be the nurse that you want to be” amid that busy day. But petting Pace means that, when nurses do take a break, it is genuinely calming and they tend to feel far less stressed.

Nurses who cannot have a pet dog of their own for whatever reason find that, at work, Pace is able to provide them with some of that unconditional love. While Cifranic works primarily with nurses, Pace can be a calming influence on associates in other hospital departments as well and gladly shows her love to other professionals such as physicians and physical therapists, among many others.

As a nursing recruitment and retention specialist, Cifranic goes into the community at special events to market that BVHS is a great place to work. He also focuses on retention of nurses already employed at BVHS, as well as recruiting new nurses.

Cifranic visits high school and college campuses and has found students are eager to have their picture taken with Pace, and to pet her. He has found it helps BVHS stand out as a potential employer, as students may see it as a place that is focused on its healthcare providers’ own health and wellness.

“I get a lot of questions about her,” Cifranic said. “I’m known as ‘the guy with the dog.’”

Cifranic said developing a strong support system helps with employee retention. He said the BVHS nurse residency program is one example of this.

Pace, meanwhile, helps relieve nurses’ stress. In turn, this may help build their confidence – nurses may be aware they are doing a phenomenal job, but in the midst of stress it’s easy to lose sight of that accomplishment. Having a few calming minutes to pet a dog helps them realize their contribution and their value.

Cifranic’s long healthcare career includes 15 years as a nurse.

“She made me a better nurse,” he said. “Pace is able to pick up on tiny, subtle emotional cues, and to really feel the energy of a room. Working with her has helped me improve my own skills in this area, so together we can really work with people who need support.”

Pace has learned to respond to questions and knows the difference between “yes” and “no,” as well as the difference between “right” and “left”.

“She brings so much joy into the workplace,” Cifranic said.

When off duty, Pace is like any other dog. Cifranic said she has a large collection of toys, but one of her favorite hobbies is stealing his shoes. She also loves playing fetch, searching for rabbits and squirrels, checking on her chicken friends daily, and going for walks.