Four Japanese students from the Hiroshima Animal Care College, along with one of their teachers, visited Irvine Medical Center to learn about our pet therapy program. The students came to interview Pam Becker, Executive Director of the Animal Health Foundation and Kathleen Bunge, Director of KP Volunteer Services. Pam and three of her dogs have been one of our pet therapy teams since the program started at IMC in October 2009.
The students were very excited to visit us since this was their first time observing pet therapy in a hospital setting. Pam gave them a thorough description of how pet therapy teams operate, and with Kathleen, discussed the benefits, departments where teams can visit, and the general policies and procedures involved in the program. Due to patient confidentiality, the group was unable to visit the patient floors but was able to observe Pam and her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Bentley in action with a few visitors in the lobby and in the reception area.
In addition to visiting with us at the medical center, the students also visited the Los Angeles Zoo, the Burbank Animal Shelter and an animal rehabilitation facility, among other locations. These students will graduate with a Bachelors Degree in the spring from the Hiroshima Animal Care College and will seek employment in fields such as social services, teaching, animal grooming, or in animal training. Many of the school’s graduates find employment in zoos or working in skilled nursing facilities in animal assisted therapy.