Who let the dogs in?

Mrs Elizabeth Bradbury1, Ms Susan Harding1, Ms Cherylynn McGurgan1
1Melbourne Health, Parkville, Australia

The Royal Melbourne Hospital (RMH) is a state-wide trauma service seeing around 78,000 presentations annually. The Emergency Department (ED) management team recognises staff as our greatest asset and chose to invest in `Caring for the Carers’ by developing a wellbeing program which aligned strongly with our organisational vision to be `First In Care’ and an employer of choice.

2018 marked our commitment to improve staff wellbeing by continuing to promote Compassion Fatigue Workshops, introducing Peer Support and Preceptorship Programs and our innovative Dog Program.

In January 2018 our Dog Program, was trialled for 4 months at two days per week in our non-clinical space. The overwhelmingly positive response resulted in Monday – Friday implementation.

The RMH ED has had international and national interest through Facebook and Channel 9 news coverage.  The most pleasing feedback however has come from our own staff when surveyed. Questions included:

Do you think that staff morale has improved since the introduction of the Dog Program: Yes: 87%

Have you noticed a reduction in personal stress since the introduction of the Dog Program: Yes: 64%

Do you believe the Dog Program has improved interpersonal relationships within the ED? Yes: 79%

  • “It’s one of the best staff wellbeing strategies to be introduced. You could be having the shift from hell and coming upstairs to the dogs just takes so much stress away!”
  • “Love! Can and has made a bad day great!”
  • “Great initiative! The dog program has definitely made our workplace a lot more enjoyable and puts a smile on our face.”


RMH ED acknowledges that our Wellbeing programs, including our Dog Program do not eliminate the volume, acuity and stress related to Emergency nursing. However we believe that our innovative approach has enriched our workplace culture and improved staff retention.

Liz Bradbury has over 30 years of emergency nursing experience. After completing her Post Graduate Emergency Nursing Certificate and a Diploma in Business, has progressed through CNS and ANUM roles and is currently the Clinical Nurse Manager in the Emergency Department at the Royal Melbourne Hospital. Liz has dedicated years building teams and supportive environments to enhance the professional growth and development of her staff. Liz has long advocated for a greater focus on wellbeing for Emergency Department nursing staff  to support mental health, address the impact of occupational violence and aggression (OVA) and  identify enablers for longevity in the emergency nursing role. Liz has been involved in promoting and supporting departmental wellbeing tools to minimize impact of emergency trauma, Occupational Violence and Aggression (OVA) and aims for RMH ED to be recognised as an Employer of Choice