Providence adds first hospital-based K9 force in Washington State

Providence adds first hospital-based K9 force in Washington State

Providence Health Care has brought in the state’s first hospital-based K9 force at Sacred Heart Hospital.

Right now the force consists of Sarge, a 16-month-old German Shepherd. Sarge was brought in from Czechoslovakia.

Providence says the decision to add a K9 force was due to an increase in violence against hospital staff. It says health care workers face more violence than any other profession outside of law enforcement.

“We’ve always sort of thought it was part of the job and when you work with people that have cognitive brain dysfunction, or brain injuries, or dementia, some of this is just expected,” said Peg Currie, chief operating officer for Providence Health Care.

Sarge will be joined by his handler, Pat McKenna. McKenna has more than 25 years in law enforcement and K9 handling.

McKenna says Sarge was specifically chosen because of his friendly traits, making him a great fit for patients and visitors at the hospital. But, Sarge will also protect hospital employees and sniff out contraband.

“We take their drives and their character traits and we manipulate those to a point that this is the funnest game possible for these dogs,” said McKenna.

It’s a first-of-its-kind program in our state, but K9’s have been used in hospitals around the country.

“This isn’t really unusual for healthcare, but based on the escalation of the number of incidents, we decided to take the plunge along with other trauma centers across the country that have had great success with these kinds of programs,” Currie said.

So far, Sarge is a hit. Staff says he’s already the most popular member of the security team.

“I’m impressed with the warm reception we’ve got since we’ve been here,” McKenna said.

If you do see Sarge around Sacred Heart, he is on duty. McKenna says you can still interact with him, just make sure you ask for permission first.

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