Brigham Buddies handlers and dogs,from left: Julianne McKinley, with Jameson; Caroline Alexander, with Oliver; and Nicole Mann, with Emily

With the recent expansion of the Brigham Buddies pet therapy program, more patients and loved ones are able to experience a comforting visit from one of three therapy dogs that come to the hospital each week with their handlers.

“Pets have healing qualities,” said MaryKate Hegarty, MSN, RN, nurse director of CWN-7, Orthopaedics and Trauma, and CWN 8 North, Gynecology Surgical Oncology. “They provide our patients, many of whom have been here for weeks, with a connection to the outside world and a distraction from the stress of being in a hospital.”

Pet handlers undergo volunteer training and onboarding through the Office for Sponsored Staff and Volunteer Services, and the dogs are certified as therapy animals through a nonprofit organization called Pets and People. Dogs are kept on a short leash and follow protocols to ensure that the experience is safe and enjoyable for everyone involved.

In addition to visiting patients on medical and surgical units, the dogs frequent the Brigham Education Institute’s Knowledge Center, which holds monthly pet therapy and wellness sessions for faculty, staff and trainees.

Visit for more information about pet therapy visits and the Department of Nursing’s policy. To coordinate a visit, contact Volunteer Program and Training Coordinator Kelsey Craig at or 617-732-6584.

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