Animal-assisted therapy (AAT) has been shown to reduce anxiety in hospitalized patients as well as decrease hypertensive patients. Hospitalized patients encounter stressors that can impact their experience and recovery, as reported by Coakley and Mahoney.
Research has proven that animals can reduce our stress levels and give us a better sense of wellbeing. Animals can create increased motivation in people of all ages and can be a beneficial component to the success of treatment programs for patients.
AAT is often mistaken as pet visitations. The difference is AAT is more specific in its goals, does not involve personal pets, and requires more intensive training for both the animal and the handler as stated in the pet partner's website, www.petpartners.org/page.aspx?pid=321
I am a registered nurse at a local hospital and often we talk about taking a patient-centered approach to patient care, so for patients that love animals, AAT could be part of a care plan that nurses could utilize to help calm and comfort patients.
AAT can help patients who are experiencing fear, loneliness, pain and anxiety. With AAT we could treat these feelings of fear and anxiety and without the use of medications.
Having a visitation from an animal for just 15 minutes, being able to interact with the animal can be calming and even help relieve anxiety, according to a study done by the American Heart Association. Animal-assisted therapy is an alternative healing modality that serves as a cost-effective means to assist patients in recovery and help make hospital stay bearable.
Dawn Lyke RN, BSN