UT Health EMS will bring in a service dog to help employees with work stress

TYLER, Texas (KLTV) – First responders are often under a lot of stress. To combat that, UT Health EMS in Tyler is bringing on a new team member.

Apollo Wiggins, a 34-pound labradoodle, is changing the atmosphere at work.

It all started last October when owner and AIR 1 flight nurse Christy Wiggins learned about EMS agencies bringing in therapy-trained animals to deal with the stressful work environment.

“We see some of the worst. We see the funniest people, but it’s usually on their worst day and that eventually wears us down. We try to keep our heads up and have a good attitude, but it gets to you after a while,” Wiggins said.

Wiggins brought the idea to UT Health EMS CEO John Smith.

“Every time he walks into your office, you give birth, it goes on. It will change everything you think about right now. Pet lovers, it can definitely brighten your day.

Apollo roams the building through classrooms and offices. Crew members stop by Wiggins’ office after a hard day.

“When they’re ready, they get up and go, and most of them end up commenting, ‘I need this before I go home to my family.’ So it’s very reassuring for them.

Other services are offered to help employees manage stress, such as licensed mental health professional Brenda McBride. But she says having Apollo brings a different kind of stress relief to the team.

“We’ve known since science that animals are very calming for the nervous system. Our mission is to care for one another, and that’s one way we do that.” McBride said.

EMS is the only department at UT Health that has this kind of emotional support for employees.

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