This post is in partnership with Sutter Health’s CPMC.
Between my two children, we’ve used the pediatric services of California Pacific Medical Center’s emergency department four times. During one visit, we met Posey the Therapy Dog (aka Barker Posey), a gentle black lab with a special talent to calm down and cheer up young patients and their families. CPMC, a part of Sutter Health’s not-for-profit integrated network of care, recently opened its new location on Van Ness between Post and Geary and moved its emergency department—including its pediatric services—to the new building.
I caught up with Posey’s owner, Dr. Vincent Tamariz, CPMC’s pediatric medical director of the emergency department, and Posey to get a perspective from Posey’s point of view about her important role at the new hospital. Watch Posey and Dr. Tamariz in action in the video below and check out her Instagram account @barkerposeycci.
What does a therapy dog do?
As CPMC’s Chief Medical Paw-fficer, I’m part of CPMC’s pediatric team. I work with the doctors, nurses and child life specialists to care for our patients. Together, we make sure that the children who visit our emergency department, who spend time in our pediatric ICU, or who stay on the pediatric floor of the hospital get the best care possible.
My job on the team is to put children and their families at ease while they’re visiting us. For example, I can help distract children while they are having an IV put in—petting me helps them sit calmly while the doctors and nurses do their jobs.
I like to visit a child’s room with the doctor after they’re admitted to welcome them and put them at ease. Then, I come back once any necessary procedures, like getting stitches, are finished. When they see me, they know the hard part is over!
Another important thing I do is help the siblings of patients who have to hang around at the hospital. It can be really stressful and scary for siblings to be in that situation. They’re worried about their brother or sister, so the pediatrics team and I make it a point to make sure siblings feel comfortable, too.
What’s unique about working with the Pediatric Team at CPMC?
We think about hospital visits from the children’s perspective and are prepared for their special medical needs, which makes a child’s experience as good as it can possibly be. When all of the medical professionals are experienced in pediatrics and working in a specially designed area of the emergency department, they can offer the highest quality care and explain things in a way that kids understand.
We have a Child Life program dedicated to supporting patients and their families during their stay at the hospital. It’s amazing what a difference good communication between a medical team and their patients can make. I watch our child life specialists patiently prepare children and their families for what’s to come and answer all of their questions. That’s often enough to ease their fears and keep them calm. And when they need extra help, I’m there, too!
What’s one of the most rewarding moments you’ve had working at CPMC?
I always enjoy keeping children company when they visit CPMC, but I’m particularly proud of how I help children who come to the hospital for blood work. Young children don’t like getting their blood drawn and it becomes hard for them to keep still. I lay on their lap or up next to them, like a living weighted blanket—the added pressure is calming, so they stay still while nurses draw blood.
How do you like working at CPMC’s new Van Ness location?
I love my new workplace! My owner, Dr. Tamariz, was passionate about lobbying for state of the art facilities for our pediatric emergency services. We need more than a colorful mural on the wall and smaller-sized chairs to meet the needs of children. Our new facility on Van Ness has two full-capability rooms. If we had to, we could perform surgery in there. Well, not me, of course, but the rest of the pediatrics team. This brand new space is equipped to assist children in any emergency.
How did you become a therapy dog?
I was originally training with Dr. Tamariz to be a wheelchair companion service dog, but after completing that program, I didn’t want to leave him! And my temperament was well suited for therapy, so I went back to school through the Therapy Dogs International program. Now I get to work with Dr. Tamariz at CPMC!
How often are you at CPMC?
I’m at the hospital whenever Dr. Tamariz is there. You’ll know it’s me because I wear a special therapy dog vest while I’m working. I never want children to have to come to the emergency room, but when they do, I do my best to make their visit a little more pleasant while the rest of the pediatrics emergency team delivers top-notch care.