Some of Hawaii's frontline healthcare heroes are getting much needed support in the form of a four-legged friend.
3-year-old Samson is a new employee at the Queen's Medical Center.
The Golden Retriever was trained by Maui non-profit Assistance Dogs of Hawaii.
Unlike other hospital dogs who provide support to patients and their families, Samson's main role is to lift the spirits of medical staff.
"It's the first time that we as a program, or really anyone that I've heard of has placed a dog to work exclusively with the healthcare providers. To support and benefit them." explained Maureen Maurer, co-founder and executive director of Assistance Dogs of Hawaii.
Samson started his work at Queens in September, when COVID-19 cases were at an all time high.
"It's been very stressful for the staff," explained Queen's Health Systems Chief Physician Executive Dr. Whitney Limm. "The patients have been sicker, the patient load has been greater."
Samson makes regular visits to the COVID-19 unit and around the hospital. He's a key component to an effort by the Queen's Health Systems to support employee's mental health and well-being.
"Mental health is so important. And I think it has been overlooked so early on and now it's been on the forefront especially with the pandemic." said Samson's handler, Kristen Collat.
With every snuggle, paw shake, and wag of his tail, Samson helps prevent burnout and motivates staff to want to come to work.
"Whenever we go to a unit or to a office, it's amazing to see the demeanor of people. How it changes them, and how it makes them feel happy," said Collat.
Samson was originally one of four dogs training to be a COVID detection dog. Assistance Dogs of Hawaii quickly discovered his true talent shined in another area.
"Samson really didn't want to participate in it. He favored mingling with people," explained Dr. Limm.
Those people skills are paying off.
"We're getting more and more requests for this type of service. Just to help support the healthcare workers," said Maurer. "It's been such a difficult time for them. We're really happy to be able to support the important work that they do."