CoxHealth public safety improves after K9 units join team

Local News

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – After an upward trend of assaults and attacks on healthcare workers over the last ten years, CoxHealth is using animals to help with public safety at the hospital.

Highly trained dogs are used to de-escalate situations, protect patients and staff.

“We can get them to bark on command,” said Montana Millican, a canine handler at CoxHealth. “We can have them lay down; we can have them go at a different angle; that way we can come at the person from a different angle, and that way they can see the dog and us and hope to de-escalate the person.”

Millican said these german shepherds are trained to distinguish 23 different scents, “we’ve had a few bomb threats, so we had the dogs trained in explosives, they can search cars, buildings, areas, bags.”

De-escalating a potentially dangerous situation is a much-needed service at CoxHealth.

“I think about three-quarters of all the assaults against workers occur in healthcare,” said Steve Edwards, President, and CEO of CoxHealth.

Edwards said putting the dogs on the public safety team has made a significant difference, “in six months, we have about 1,100 circumstances where a public safety officer’s called into a situation where the staff member’s at risk, and in those, about 26% of the time, the patient had to be restrained. With the dogs involved, only 3% of the time.”

“Since we’ve had the dogs, we’ve had zero bomb threats, which is big for us. I think we were averaging six a month before that,” Millican said, “so far since we’ve had the dogs, we’ve had 0 outside assaults on nursing staff, on security. So that’s been great for us inside the hospital; every time we bring the dog to a call, we have a 40% less chance of going hands-on with the individual.”

“One of the powerful things that you realize is that bad guys, if you pull a gun or a knife, you know that most people will back down, but dogs won’t. That affects people. So it keeps us safer,” said Edwards.

And just by being there, the dogs serve as a naturally calming presence.

“People will see the dogs, and they just naturally calm down. Most of the time, it ends up being a conversation about the dogs,” said Millican.

“In a stressful situation, just having dogs around; feels kind of good. We all feel comforted by dogs, and I feel our staff feel comforted,” said Edwards.

If you see one of these dogs at the hospital, remember the dogs cannot be petted, especially on the job.

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