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HCA Houston Healthcare Clear Lake unleashes animal therapy program for colleagues

Clear Lake uses animal therapy program to benefit employee mental health.

October 17, 2023
HCA Houston Clear Lake colleague Angela Mueller cuddles with Ginger

Webster, Texas — Many organizations have pet therapy programs in place for patients, but HCA Houston Healthcare Clear Lake knows that same therapy can be just as beneficial for the employees.

Knowing that healthcare employees experience a tremendous amount of stress and fatigue, HCA Houston Healthcare Clear Lake has been implementing unique mental health initiatives such as Zen Dens, Wellness Wagons, mental health art projects, and now animal assisted therapy, to prevent colleague burnout and turnover in their facility. In May 2023, HCA Houston Healthcare Clear Lake began exploring the benefits with A Pawsitive Approach, a local resource for training and providing therapy and medical alert service dogs for children and adults. The highly trained service dogs are specially bred, socialized, and trained from birth to 18 months when they begin their specialized service training. The “furry therapists” are comprised mainly of Goldendoodles and Labradoodles and make visits to retirement and nursing homes, schools, and of course hospitals. A friendly pack of 4-6 dogs are now weekly visitors at the HCA campus, providing both day and night shift colleagues in all units with the opportunity for a ‘pawsitive’ break.

“It’s all in the impact. We have a passion for bringing care to those who always take care of others,” said owner Cathy Dorchuk, “HCA has taken the initiative to provide their staff the well-being support that all healthcare professionals deserve, and we’re excited to play our part in those efforts.”


Group of nurses at HCA Houston Healthcare Clear Lake posing with the therapy dogs from A Pawsitive Approach.
Shown L to R: HCA colleagues Donna Duncavage, Ashlyn Garcia, Cynthia Schaefer, Clarissa Benavides, and Kacy Stogo play with Milo, Lucy, Dakota and Jaspe

Not surprisingly, studies have shown that pet therapy gives a calming sense and lowers stress levels. “Our mental health initiative has been of top priority and we acknowledge the growing need for well-being support in healthcare,” stated Todd Caliva, CEO at HCA Houston Healthcare Clear Lake. “Cathy and A Pawsitive Approach provide the same care like family to our staff that we give to our patients. Every visit makes a difference in our commitment to the care and improvement of human life.”

HCA Houston Healthcare Clear Lake plans to expand the program in 2024 with scheduling multiple campus visits per week and extending the visits to the bay area HCA ER 24/7 free-standing emergency rooms as well. Learn more about the many services provided by HCA Houston Healthcare Clear Lake.

October 17, 2023
HCA Houston Healthcare Clear Lake