Animal Assisted Therapy

Increasing evidence has shown contact with animals to have positive both physical and emotional health impacts on children (1-2).
 
Evidence to support the use of Animal Assisted Therapy as a therapeutic adjunct.
 
1. Vagnoli, L., Caprilli, S., Vernucci, C., Zagni, S., Mugnai, F., & Messeri, A. 2015. Can presence of a dog reduce pain and distress in children during venipuncture?. Pain Management Nursing, 16(2), 89-95.

2. Lima, M., Silva, K., Amaral, I., Magalhães, A., & Sousa, L. 2014. Can you help when it hurts? Dogs as potential pain relief stimuli for children with profound intellectual and multiple disabilities. Pain Medicine, 15(11), 1983- 1986.

Aims

  • Encourage interaction between patients (inpatient & outpatient) and Holly to help improve their hospital experience.
  • Facilitate staff interaction with Holly and participation in staff meetings, to help improve inter-team working and boost morale.
  • Review Holly’s impact on both patients, carers and staff through free text questionnaires and independent feedback.

Parents and Carers (n=37)

  • 100% responded positively regarding their experience with Holly and her impact on their stay.
  • When exploring the feelings she evoked in patients, happiness (n=15) and calm (n=17) were reported in 86% of respondents.

Staff (n=19)

  • 15 cited a positive therapeutic effect on patients
  • Benefits reported included: calming effect on patients, being a great distraction, boosting staff morale and improving team working.
  • Concerns raised: concern regarding infection control and ownership of caring for Holly.

Emerging theme: Mental Health

  • Both patients and staff questionnaire responses highlighted the beneficial effect Holly has had in improving experience and care of mental health patients.
  • 20% of patients who responded identified a mental health complaint as their reason for admission (including depression, self-harm and intentional drug overdose). They all cited Holly’s positive impact on their stay.

One time in particular Holly helped a mental health patient suffering from depression, low self-esteem and lack of self-worth. She often said to the nursing staff, ‘why would anyone love me?’ Her mood changed remarkably when in the rabbit’s company … it was almost as if her depression left the room once the rabbit was there.

HCA Ifor ward

Conclusions

  • Introducing Holly to the ward has been shown to have beneficial effects on both patients and staff
  • She has made patients’ stay more enjoyable, improved staff morale
  • Beneficial impact in improving the stay of patients admitted with mental health complaints
  • We feel this project’s benefits could be replicated in other paediatric units to improve the care we provide and patients’ experiences of the healthcare system.

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Working on it!