New K-9 teams help reduce anxiety and risk at U-M Health

March 20, 2023  //  FOUND IN: Our Employees,

Approximately a 2-minute read

Key takeaways:

  • Two new Michigan Medicine Security K-9 teams are on patrol at the main medical campus and ambulatory care sites.
  • The K-9 teams are an important tool for reducing risk and anxiety in the health care setting.
  • In addition to increasing safety for those who work and receive care at Michigan Medicine, the K-9 teams bring smiles and comfort to team members, patients and visitors alike.

In recent months, Michigan Medicine employees at the main medical campus and ambulatory care sites have been hearing the pitter patter of little feet. In December, Maizy and Loken, two new Security K-9s, began making the rounds with their handlers, Joseph Medrano and Charles “Chan” Duckworth.

Now fully trained and acclimated to their new work environments, the Security K-9 teams are immersed in their roles, working to reduce anxiety and risk for patients, visitors, faculty, staff and learners.

Twice the coverage

“The Michigan Medicine Security K-9 program started with just one K-9 on the main medical campus,” said Brian Uridge, DPSS deputy director and Michigan Medicine Security director. “The program was so successful that we wanted to expand access to more patients and employees.”

Uridge said the benefits of having a Security K-9 program in the health care setting are two-fold.

“The focus in security is to reduce risk and to reduce anxiety,” he said. “The K-9s do both.”

Reducing risk

Uridge said there’s a great deal of research indicating that the presence of Security K-9s can reduce violence up to 75%.

“From a risk perspective, it’s incredible,” he said. “And the dogs are trained in explosive and firearm detection, offering another layer of protection for everyone who works and receives care in our facilities.”

Tony Denton, senior vice president and chief environmental, social and governance officer for U-M Health, said the expansion of the K-9 program is part of an overall strategy to improve safety and security at U-M Health.

“We are always looking at innovative ways to keep our team members, patients and families as safe as possible,” Denton said. “Our K-9 program is part of these efforts and we’re thrilled that we’ve been able to expand the program in recent months.”

Pawsitive impact

The dogs also provide a sort of pet therapy for team members, whose faces light up whenever Maizy or Loken come around — and their presence helps calm patients who may be struggling, as well.

“We see people in all types of distress and mental states,” said Duckworth, whose K-9 partner is Loken, a 16-month-old German Shepherd.

“When patients are having a hard time, they sometimes just do not want to talk to people,” he said, “but whenever Loken comes around, they open up.

“He’s a great avenue to have dialogue with people,” Duckworth said.

Medrano said the support from employees has been amazing for he and his K-9 partner, Maizy, who is a two-and-a-half-year-old Belgian Malinois.

“The first thing you see is a smile on people’s faces,” said Medrano. “It just makes their day.”

“The impact of the K-9 teams on patients and staff morale is incredible,” Uridge said. “The dogs have been an unbelievable tool for building relationships and for building trust.”