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Goji's Going Places!

Updated: Sep 1, 2023

By Sharla Dillman, SDI Graduate

My name is Sharla Dillman. I have worked in the healthcare field for 22 years, which began with the role as a paramedic and then growing into the role of Registered Nurse.

I served as Director of EMS relations for HCA hospitals in the Rio Grande Valley in Brownsville and McAllen. There were approximately 250-300 beds per hospital. I also visited over 25 EMS/Fire stations with 300+ EMS staff who worked 24 shifts.

Depression is an ongoing battle in the Rio Grande Valley and no one is immune to it. The pandemic exhausted the frontline staff. The heartbreaking loss of loved ones and patients dying so rapidly and in such high numbers mentally challenged with the staffs.

The hospitals and EMS providers provided counselors and advisors for the staff to discuss their feelings and fears to help cope with the pandemic. Goji, the Trauma Response Dog trained for me by Service Dogs, Inc. helped our frontline workers feel comfortable to talk freely about their thoughts and feelings in these sessions.

I have begun teaching at the nursing program at Texas Southmost College in Brownsville, Texas. My students are paramedics and other first responders wishing to earn an Associate Degree Nursing or Vocational Nursing.

Students come from all backgrounds and struggle daily with balancing life and school. Some are single parents and working full time while going to school 4-5 days a week. Goji has a unique way of breaking down walls. She provides the support emotionally that many students may not have at home and also instills compassion and caring in the students.

She has identified students walking into class who may be struggling in their personal life and offers a wagging tale and smile to make their day better. She can identify a student during a test who may be struggling or having anxiety. She immediately goes to that student and offers support.

Goji also has helped students decompress in class or in my office. Thanks to her, we have opened doors of communication that allow us as instructors to offer guidance and resources to the students to help them overcome their struggles of life. All of my students have done exceptionally well with her in the classroom. She reduces their stress, even if she’s snoring during tests.

We understand this well, as we have all been in their shoes. Personally, I earned my Masters Degree while working full time as a Director of EMS Relations in two counties, caring for an invalid relative in my home, parenting an elementary school child and planning my wedding.

Even our Director needed Goji as she was struggling to complete grants for the college and Goji wouldn’t leave her till she was more relaxed.

The more compassionate nurses we can create, the better the healthcare will become. Having empathy, compassion, and knowledge is what makes a nurse the best for their patients.

My thanks to SDI and to PetcoLove Foundation for sponsoring the cost of Goji’s Training!


Sharla Dillman

Rio Grande Valley

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