National Center for Healthcare Advancement and Partnerships
Webinars will provide volunteer animal handlers with Veteran-focused tips
The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) and Pet Partners (a nonprofit and VHA partner) will offer two webinars to share tips with volunteer animal handlers on interacting with Veterans during volunteers’ visits to VHA medical centers. These webinars are open to current and prospective volunteer animal handlers.
Pet Partners is a national leader in promoting the health and wellness benefits of animal-assisted interventions (AAI), which includes animal-assisted therapy and animal-assisted activities. Pet Partners volunteer teams make visits to patients at hospitals, nursing homes, schools, retirement communities, rehabilitation centers, and VA medical centers to help lift patients’ spirits. Many of Pet Partners’ staff and volunteers have ties to the military community.
The webinars are called the “Volunteering With Veterans Series” and will feature VA experts whose presentations will focus on suicide prevention—a top clinical priority for VHA—and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which many Veterans experience. The animals in volunteer animal-handler teams can help improve humans’ physical, social, and emotional functioning during and after AAI.
The first free webinar, on suicide prevention, will take place on Wednesday, April 29, at 7 p.m. EST; participants can register here. The next, on PTSD, will take place on Tuesday, June 2, at 7 p.m. EST; participants can register here.
These webinars are just one example of the kind of outreach and education efforts Pet Partners leads. “Our goal is to educate the human at the end of the leash,” said Charis Tarbett, Pet Partners’ learning experience manager, referring to the handlers in volunteer teams.
VHA and Pet Partners formalized their partnership in October 2019. Research shows that people in contact with animals may experience lower blood pressure, reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, lessened anxiety and pain, and decreased feelings of loneliness. Dogs are the most common species registered in volunteer teams, but Pet Partners volunteers also support AAI with animals such as rabbits, cats, and mini pigs.
The VHA Office of Community Engagement (OCE) helps establish effective partnerships such as this one throughout VHA. Its mission is to serve as a trusted resource, catalyst, and facilitator of partnerships that benefit Veterans, their families, caregivers, and survivors.
“OCE is enthusiastic about and grateful for this collaboration with Pet Partners,” says VHA Health System Specialist Jamie Davis. “We know from deep experience that the human-animal bond can make a real difference to a Veteran’s overall health.”
Pet Partners’ mission is to improve human health and well-being through the human-animal bond. The organization has a nationwide network of 13,000 registered volunteer animal-handler teams that make nearly 3 million visits annually. Working with VA, Pet Partners aims to increase Veterans’ access to AAI throughout the VHA health care system.
For more on OCE’s work, please visit https://www.va.gov/healthpartnerships/index.asp.
Posted April 6, 2020