Meet the facility dogs of University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital
Updated: December 19. 2023
Two uniquely qualified employees will soon arrive with wagging tails in the rooms and hearts of patients at University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital. And their names are Nacho and Corrin, the first team members of the Facility Dog Program.
“Our new facility dogs are very important members of the health care team.” says Racheal Niensteadt, CCLS, Manager of the Child Life Specialist Program at UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital. “Together with their handlers, Corrin and Nacho will help children achieve specific clinical goals through animal-assisted interventions. We are very excited to offer this transformative care to pediatric patients and their families at our hospital.”
Paired with handlers Aly Humphrey and Emily Bradley—both child life specialists—the dogs will actively participate in patient care, promoting healing for pediatric patients in a variety of ways.
Here are a few examples:
- Encouraging recovery: walking with the patient during physical therapy or after surgery
- Decreasing fear and anxiety before a procedure or surgery: demonstrating what it’s like to have anesthesia, or imaging scans.
- Support during procedures: providing distraction and positive coping skills
- Helping patients learn to take medicine: they may show a child how to take medicine from a syringe, or spoon, or medicine cup.
- Outcome-driven therapeutic play
- Emotional support and comfort
- Sibling and family support
Meet Nacho and Corrin
“I’m thrilled to be a handler with this program,” says Emily Bradley, MA, CCLS, the handler for Nacho. “As a Child Life Team, our goal is to reduce fear and anxiety to positively impact the care of our pediatric patients. Nacho and Corrin will help us better meet patients’ emotional and developmental needs.”
Our facility dogs were part of a bond-based instruction program through a nonprofit called Canine Assistants. The group employs a bond-Based Methodology process that began when the dogs were just a few weeks of age. The duo then spent over a year learning how to be facility dogs before arriving at our children’s hospital. Handlers develop a strong relationship with their dogs through bond-building exercises that foster a beneficial and loving relationship between the dog and handler, grounded in trust, respect, and confidence.
“The idea is that because we’re asking these dogs to help our patients lead happier lives, the dogs themselves deserve to be happy,” says Aly Humphrey, MS, CCLS, CTRS, handler for Corrin. “It’s a relationship that benefits all of us.”
Family Pet and Certified Dog Visit programs through Furry Friends will continue to support patients at UI Health Care.
The program is funded by generous donors through the University of Iowa Center for Advancement.