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PAWS Pet Therapy

PAWS Pet Therapy

PAWS Pet TherapyPAWS (Pet Assisted Wellness Support) is the therapy dog visitation program at Appalachian Regional Healthcare System (ARHS). The program offers patients an opportunity to ‘pause’ and forget about their treatment for a few moments while interacting with a registered therapy dog.

Animals provide many therapeutic and health benefits. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, pet therapy can aid in achieving human physical, social, emotional and cognitive function goals. Pet therapy visits typically last a few minutes and can help reduce stress and anxiety, lower blood pressure, promote social interaction and provide encouragement and motivation during the treatment and recovery process.

PAWS teams are available to visit patients at ARHS facilities upon request.

Pet Therapy Dog Qualifications

PAWS Pet Therapy Program at Appalachian Regional Healthcare System PAWS handlers must successfully complete the process to become an ARHS PAWS volunteer. Once approved, the dog and handler team receive an official (ARHS) Volunteer ID Badge and may begin visiting at an approved ARHS facilities.


  • Dog’s owner must have insurance
  • Current pet health and vaccination record
  • Therapy dog certification documentation
  • Contact information for veterinarian

PAWS dogs must be certified or registered by:

To volunteer with the PAWS program, call (828) 262-4408.

Support PAWS

Appalachian Regional Healthcare Foundation (ARHF) supports Appalachian Regional Healthcare System, which includes Charles A. Cannon, Jr. Memorial Hospital, Watauga Medical Center and Appalachian Regional Medical Associates. The hospitals and outpatient facilities work together to enhance healthcare services and programs available in the High Country.

The generosity of our donors is what makes programs such as PAWS possible. Lend a hand, or paw, and help the PAWS program thrive by making a tax-deductible contribution today!

You may make an online gift on the Appalachian Regional Healthcare Foundation’s website or mail to Appalachian Regional Healthcare Foundation, PO Box 2600, Boone, NC 28607.

To donate to the PAWS Program, contact the ARHS Foundation at (828) 262-4391.

Support Groups & Classes

Support Groups & Classes

Quality of Care

Quality of Care

Our goal is to provide the best patient care. If at any time you have questions or concerns about the quality of care that you or a family member are receiving or have received at one of our facilities, do not hesitate to speak with your nurse or nursing supervisor. If you feel that your issue wasn’t resolved, please ask for the House Supervisor. Appalachian Regional Healthcare System seeks to provide prompt review and timely resolution of concerns from its inpatients and outpatients.


For complaints about quality of care, contact the Risk Management Department at (828) 263-1207


For any questions about our Notice of Privacy Practices, you may contact the Privacy Officer at (828) 262-4239.

In addition, you have the right to file a complaint or concern with either or both:

The NC Division of Health Service Regulation
Complaint Intake Unit
2711 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-22711
(800) 624-3004
Office of Quality and Patient Safety
The Joint Commission
One Renaissance Boulevard
Oakbrook Terrace, IL 60181
(800) 994-6610

Resolution of Conflicts

Although conflicts are often a part of life, they can add to the stress you feel when you or a loved one is hospitalized. At ARHS, our job is to:

  • anticipate potential care-related conflicts and eliminate them
  • work with you to resolve conflicts quickly and considerately

While we strive to meet and exceed the expectations of our patients, staff, physicians and visitors, at times we may fall short. An important value at ARHS is receiving, responding to and resolving all complaints in a courteous and timely manner. Your feedback helps us to improve our care and delivery systems.

If you have a complaint, you may speak with any facility employee or volunteer, and he or she will initiate the complaint process. If the individual can resolve the problem, he or she has the authority to do so. If not, your concerns are forwarded to the appropriate department manager, and if necessary, to hospital administration.

How are we doing?

Our goal is to provide excellent patient care at all of our facilities. We take every concern that you share with us seriously and will use it as an opportunity to review and improve the care that we provide.

If you have any concerns related to you or your family member’s care, we encourage you to discuss them with your doctor or nurse while you are under their care. You may also contact the risk manager at (828) 263-1207 or contact us online.

You also have the right to contact outside regulatory agencies if you have concerns. The contact numbers are:

  • NC Division of Health Service Regulation Complaint Intake Unit – 1 (800) 624-3004
  • The Joint Commission – 1 (800) 994-6610

Ethics Committee

All ARHS facilities have an ethics committee available to give you support and guidance when you are faced with difficult decisions about medical care and treatment issues. These committees do not tell you what you should do, but help affected parties look together at a larger situation and consider all feasible alternatives. Below is a list of how to contact the ethics committee and your location:

Charles A. Cannon, Jr. Memorial Hospital
(828) 737-7596 – request to speak with a care manager

Watauga Medical Center
(828) 262-4100 – request pager number 1400

Pastoral Care

Pastoral Care

Melanie Childers, Director of Pastoral Care

Melanie Childers, Director of Pastoral Care

Pastoral Care offers a professional chaplain presence throughout the clinical areas of Watauga Medical Center.  Volunteer community clergy are available to patients at Cannon Memorial Hospital by request.

In addition to daily rounds and crisis intervention, trained clinical chaplains respond to requests from patients, families, and clinicians to provide support, bereavement care, spiritual assessments, religious rituals, and pastoral spiritual conversation consistent with the patient’s faith tradition and current needs. Professional chaplains are available 24 hours a day at Watauga Medical Center.


The pastoral care staff maintains excellent relationships with community clergy and coordinates the ARHS partnership program called AppFaithHealth, which helps congregations and the healthcare system work together to create healthier communities. Other departmental activities include support groups, worship services and corporate rituals; provision of inspiration, music and interfaith literature; and staff education.

Onsite Chapels

Both hospitals maintain sacred space through a chapel available for personal prayer and meditation. Groups may schedule use of the chapel at Watauga Medical Center by contacting the director of pastoral care. Visitation by religious groups and distribution of literature also should be cleared through the department. Feel free to contact Melanie Childers, director of Pastoral Care, at (828) 266-1178, or call the hospital main number (828) 262-4100 to ask that the director or on-call chaplain be paged for you.

The pastoral care office at Watauga Medical Center is open Monday through Friday from 7:30 am – 4:30 pm.

Education Resources for Patients & Caregivers

Education Resources for Patients & Caregivers

At Appalachian Regional Healthcare System, we want to partner with you to ensure that you have access to accurate information about your health when you need it. We want you to have the resources to make better health choices and reach the highest possible quality of life.

If you think you have a medical emergency, call 911 immediately. This website is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice nor does it create a patient-physician relationship. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice and should not be used for diagnosis or treatment. Never delay seeking professional medical advice because of any information found on this website and always consult with your physician before starting or stopping any course of treatment. Any test, procedure, product, physician, or treatment mentioned on this website should not be considered an endorsement by ARHS or its affiliates. Reliance on any information provided by this website is solely at your own risk. Si considera que tiene una emergencia médica, llame al 911 inmediatamente. Este sitio web tiene fines meramente informativos y no constituye consejo médico ni crea una relación de paciente y médico. No es un sustituto de consejo médico profesional ni debería usarse para diagnóstico ni tratamiento. Nunca demora la búsqueda de consejo médico profesional debido a cualquier información que haya encontrado en este sitio web, y siempre consulte con su médico antes de comenzar o interrumpir cualquier tratamiento. La mención de cualquier prueba, procedimiento, producto, médico o tratamiento en este sitio web no debería ser considerada un aval por parte de ARHS o sus afiliados. El uso de cualquier información proporcionada en este sitio web corre bajo su propia responsabilidad.


Video Library

The video library below is one of many resources at ARHS to help you learn about your health condition(s) and make living with them more manageable.

Other Helpful Resources

Appalachian Healthcare Project
You may qualify for this program to help low-income and uninsured individuals with access to healthcare, including medications. Click here to learn more. 

Free Online Medical Information
Search for accurate medical information with the following websites:

Care Management

Care Management

What is Care Management?

The care management team consists of medical social workers and licensed registered nurses. Your care manager, typically an Appalachian Regional Healthcare System social worker, will work together with you, your physician, and healthcare team to ensure the best care for you during and after your stay.

Your care manager is your advocate and is available to help you with any questions you may have about your treatment, insurance plans, and community resources. You can speak freely with your care manager about any questions or concerns you may have.


2018_socialworkers_groupWho is my Care Manager?

A care manager will be paired with each patient admitted into our facilities. You may meet your care manager in the Emergency Department or during the pre-admission process if you are having a scheduled procedure. If not, s/he will come by and meet you shortly after your admission to go over the care plan and treatment goals from your doctor.

Your care manager will be available to

  • answer any questions you may have
  • contact your insurance company for approval of your stay
  • begin the process of discussing your plans for care after your hospital stay
  • make referrals to other healthcare providers you may need when you leave

What is discharge planning?

Discharge planning is a service that allows your care manager to work with you, your family, nurses, therapy team, insurance company, and doctor to identify your needs and provide options for your continued care after your hospital stay.

The care manager takes the preferences you and your family have into consideration when working with you to develop the discharge plan.

Care Managers can help you with the following arrangements:

Inpatient Rehabilitation

  • Admission at a specialized rehabilitation therapy center
  • You must be able to participate in a minimum of 3 hours of intensive rehabilitation per day
  • May be covered by insurance, but requires pre-approval and extensive clinical information that will be provided by your care manager

Skilled Nursing Facility

  • Admission at a nursing home
  • Treatment is less intensive than inpatient rehabilitation, but physical therapy is still provided daily
  • Includes Nursing & Certified Nurse Assistant Care
  • Medicare pays for first 20 days, and it may also be covered by private insurance with prior approval

Assisted Living

  • Admission at a facility or apartment complex that provide daily assistance with meals, housekeeping, and transportation
  • Not covered by private insurance or Medicare and requires private payment on a monthly basis

Special Equipment

Durable medical equipment (DME) may be ordered by the doctor. Not all DME is covered or paid for by insurance, and you may have to pay out-of-pocket. Durable medical equipment includes items like:

  • Walkers
  • Bedside commodes
  • Oxygen


You and your family or caregiver need to have a plan for your transportation after discharge from the hospital. Transportation to the skilled nursing facility, inpatient rehabilitation or home is not covered by Medicare or private insurance if you are medically stable to ride in a car. Ambulance services for transport can be arranged, but these require payment up front.


Appalachian Regional Medical Associates Health Navigation


Patients of Appalachian Regional Healthcare System may be contacted by a Patient Care Advocate upon discharge from a hospital stay or after an office visit. The Patient Care Advocate’s goal is to ensure patients understand their care plan and give patients a point of contact within the healthcare system for future questions. Patients can get help with their questions, schedule appointments and obtain medication refills.