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PAWS Pet Therapy

PAWS Pet Therapy

PAWS Pet Therapy PAWS (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) 737-7538.

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

Pastoral Care

Pastoral Care

Request a Chaplain

Watauga Medical Center: call (828) 262-4100 and request that the chaplain on call be paged for you.

Cannon Memorial Hospital: call (828) 773-7000 and request a visit from a chaplain or spiritual care volunteer.

The pastoral care office is open Monday through Friday from 7:30 am–4:30 pm, but professional chaplains are available 24 hours a day.

Pastoral Care

Appalachian Regional Healthcare System offers a professional chaplaincy program to support the spiritual and emotional needs of patients, families and staff. Chaplains are trained to work in a secular setting, with people of all faiths or even no faith, never imposing their own beliefs, but instead meeting the individual where s/he is. As a member of the interdisciplinary care team, trained clinical chaplains respond to requests from patients, families, and clinicians to provide crisis intervention, spiritual assessments, religious rituals, bereavement care, ethical decision-making guidance, and spiritual conversation consistent with the patient’s own faith tradition and current needs.

At Cannon Memorial Hospital, a clinical chaplain provides group and individual support in the Inpatient Behavioral Health Unit. Spiritual Care Volunteers supplement the work of clinical chaplains through a regular visitation program on the medical units.


AppFaithHealth is a dynamic partnership between faith communities, Appalachian Regional Healthcare System, and other community organizations focused on improving health. The partnerships are built on webs of trust, combining the caring strengths of congregations, the clinical expertise of the healthcare system, and a network of community resources. View/Download the AppFaithHealth brochure >

How does AFH Work?

Image: AppFaithHealth Clergy Visit
  • Faith leaders know when individual members are hospitalized
  • Lay leaders have tools and training to provide quality care of congregants
  • Faith communities are resourced to stay healthier and safer
  • Faith communities help the healthcare system to better understand the community’s needs
  • Faith communities have opportunities to provide vital care and support to isolated people in need (for example, through a volunteer driver program)

Available Trainings

Image: AppFaithHealth Trainings
  • AppFaithHealth 101 – Navigating healthcare, insurance, resources, levels of care
  • Safe Moves – Best practices for assisting persons with mobility issues
  • Caregiver Conversations – What to say, or not say, when I visit someone
  • Mental Health First Aid – How to recognize and address a mental health crisis
  • Good Grief – Resources for the journey through grief
  • Nutrition for the People – How to fuel ourselves for living

How to Participate

Image: PArticipate in AppFaithHealth

Enrolling a Faith Community

  • Any faith community across the High Country is encouraged to enroll free of charge in AppFaithHealth. Once a community decides to enroll, leaders sign a simple form that describes our mutual commitment to the program.
  • Contact us at (828) 266-1178 with your questions or with your interest in joining. We will be glad to talk to you about how to enroll and at what tier of commitment you desire to join. We can also attend a worship service or congregational event to explain the program further.

AppFaithHealth Individual Member Registration

If you belong to a faith community that is already an AppFaithHealth partner, and you would like to have your faith leader contacted automatically if you are ever hospitalized, feel free to click the link below and sign the HIPAA-compliant form. AppFaithHealth will add this to your medical record, to help make sure you get the spiritual care you need while in the hospital.

If your faith community is not yet a partner, or if you aren’t sure, please reach out to the AppFaithHealth team as we would love to welcome your faith community into our program. Just call (828) 266-1178.



Watauga Medical Center’s chapel is available for personal prayer and meditation for patients, visitors, and staff. Small 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.


If you would like to speak to someone about our services, please let us know!

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_group Who 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.