Pet therapy program comes to Blue Ridge Regional Hospital

Press release

From Mission Health:

ASHEVILLE, N.C. (June 19, 2013) – From the moment Jazz enters Blue Ridge Regional Hospital, she is greeted with hugs and cheers. The hospital’s newest volunteer is a Siberian husky with the special ability to place a smile on every patient she meets.

Jazz is a participant in Blue Ridge Regional Hospital’s new Pet Therapy Program, which began May 8. The program was started to better serve the needs of patients and to help create a therapeutic environment to assist them on their path to healing.

“Experiencing our first pet therapy visit was so gratifying. From the moment Jazz entered the hospital it was overwhelming to see the response of patients, families, staff and visitors. She was hugged, petted, cuddled and photographed,” Barbara Hasty, Director of Volunteer Services for Blue Ridge Regional Hospital, said. “She loved every minute, and so did the patients.”

Studies show the presence of animals has a positive effect on human physiology. According to the studies, pet therapy reduces feelings of stress and anxiety, decreases a patient’s blood pressure and heart rate and makes them feel at ease. Studies further show that after interaction with pets, patients report decreases in pain and improvements in overall mood.

“Therapy dogs do not care if you’ve had surgery or chemotherapy or if you have a physical or mental disability. They are here to provide unconditional love. With the help of their human handlers, the dogs create a special bond with each patient that truly facilitates the healing process,” Oscar K. Weinmeister III, FACHE, President and CEO of Blue Ridge Regional Hospital, said. “We want to help our patients in any way we can, while they are here with us. The Pet Therapy Program aligns with Mission Health’s BIG(GER) Aim: to get each patient to the desired outcome, first without harm, also without waste and with an exceptional experience for the patient and family.”

“At Blue Ridge Regional Hospital, we are going the extra mile to make our patients’ time with us more comfortable. Interaction with pets reduces the traumatic effects of hospitalization and provides a more positive experience,” Hasty said. “We are hoping to expand the Pet Therapy Program to impact even more people.”

Blue Ridge Regional Hospital currently has two handlers and two therapy dogs: Jazz, the Siberian husky, and Molly, a Chihuahua. Blue Ridge Regional Hospital hopes to expand the program by adding more certified therapy dogs. For more information on the program or volunteering, contact Barbara Hasty by phone at (828) 766-1770 or via email at

About Blue Ridge Regional Hospital
Blue Ridge Regional Hospital, based in Spruce Pine, N.C., is a not-for-profit hospital and serves Mitchell, Yancey, lower Avery and upper McDowell counties. Blue Ridge Regional Hospital has provided excellent healthcare services for the region since 1955. Cleverley & Associates has recognized Blue Ridge Regional Hospital as a Community Value 5-Star Hospital for 10 consecutive years. Medical specialties offered by Blue Ridge include emergency services, OB services, critical care, rehabilitation services and fitness center, cancer services, orthopedics, general surgical services, pain management, pediatrics, family medicine, sleep disorders and wound care. In addition, Blue Ridge Regional Hospital offers clinics for the following specialties: allergy and asthma; cardiology, dermatology; ear, nose and throat; gastroenterology; ophthalmology and kidney care (nephrology). Blue Ridge Regional Hospital employs 450 people and is a member of Mission Health, recognized in 2012 and 2013 as one of the nation’s Top 15 Health Systems by Thomson Reuters and Truven Health Analytics, respectively. For more information, please visit

About Mission Health
Mission Health, based in Asheville, N.C., is the state’s sixth-largest health system and the region’s only not-for-profit, independent community hospital system governed and managed exclusively in western North Carolina. Mission Health was recognized as one of the nation’s Top 15 Health Systems in 2012 and 2013 by Thomson Reuters and Truven Health Analytics, respectively. Mission Health is one of only two medium-sized health systems to receive this recognition in 2012 and 2013, and the only health system in North Carolina to achieve that distinction.
Mission Health, which traces its roots in the region back to 1885, operates five hospitals, numerous outpatient and surgery centers and the region’s only dedicated Level II trauma center. Its medical staff consists of more than 1,000 physicians and is certified in more than 50 medical specialties and sub- specialties. Mission Health has seven Centers of Excellence: Cancer, Heart, Mission Children’s Hospital, Neurosciences, Orthopedics, Trauma and Women’s Health. Mission Hospital, located in Asheville, is the system’s flagship hospital and is licensed for 730 beds. It is the regional referral center for tertiary and quaternary care. It also includes Mission Children’s Hospital – the region’s only children’s hospital. Other Mission Health member hospitals include Angel Medical Center in Franklin, Blue Ridge Regional Hospital in Spruce Pine, McDowell Hospital in Marion and Transylvania Regional Hospital in Brevard. With approximately 9,400 employees and 700 volunteers, Mission Health is dedicated to improving the health and wellness of the people of western North Carolina. For more information, please visit mission-


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