What started as a fun idea to include pet pictures on digital screens, has turned into a new tradition that has united staff and patients in the infusion unit at the Seacoast Cancer Center.
Pictures of cats, dogs, even stuffed animals, have become a conversation starter for patients - or a fun image to help them mark an important milestone.
The idea to include pet pictures on the infusion unit’s two digital screens started during the pandemic when Melissa Ashe, Senior Administrative Assistant at the Seacoast Cancer Center, was trying to get the staff to review the information on the screens.
Because it was such a stressful time, Ashe thought it would be a good idea to incorporate some fun onto the screens.
“I started thinking about it and people love their fur babies and talking about their pets,” Ashe said. “It just seemed like a good way to get eyes on the screens and the team talking to one another.”
The staff immediately responded and at one point Ashe had 50 slides with pictures of staff members’ pets.
But the biggest benefit was the patient reaction.
“It just really got people talking. It gave the nurses an opportunity to share some of the information that we had on the screen and to talk about their pets with patients,” Ashe said
The pictures grew so popular that family members of patients started to inquire about including pictures of patient pets as a surprise during their last day of treatment
In those cases, the nursing team will work to schedule the patient in an infusion bay in front of one of the screens, so they can be surprised by their furry friend. The patient slides contain no personal information, just a photo of their pet and a simple message like “congratulations.”
“I think it’s evident to every pet owner that their pets are part of the family, and if they can see them here, and if it can support them while they’re away from home, then we’re happy to do that,” Ashe said. “I think the patients enjoy the extra effort we put into making them feel at home and feel comfortable during their visit.”
A recent patient slide even included an emotional stuffed animal named “Drama Llama.” The stuffed animal was given to the patient by a nurse, and it meant a lot to the patient.
While this new tradition may seem simple, nurses in the infusion unit say it has gone a long way towards boosting patient morale.
“The patients love it, it just makes them happy,” said Bonnie Clark-LaBrie, LNA.
“It’s just another way to establish a connection with a patient,” said Gina Adamczyk, RN. “Animals just do that. They make you feel connected, comforted, and happier. We need that here.”
Ashe said the pet picture sharing will continue if the interest remains, and she will likely change things up from time to time to keep things fun. For example, pets in Halloween costumes are starting to populate the screens.
“It’s almost like sharing a personal photo album with our patients,” Ashe said. “It helps them get to know who we are.”
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