Pet Pause Horses

Pet Pause Study

Using Animals in the Hospital Setting to Decrease Stress in Health Care Professionals

Mary Heitschmidt, PhD, RN, APN, CCRN; Melissa Browning, DNP, APRN, CCNS; Patricia Nedved, MSN, CENP, FABC; Lou Fogg, PhD; Angela Geschrey, MSN, RN, CMSRN; and Kelsey Schmitt, RN, BSN, CPN

Pain and Sedation

In the spring of 2015, as part of a human resources initiative called Pet Pause, nurses at Rush University Medical Center (RUMC) began to interact with therapy animals in the lower atrium. The mission of this program was to decrease stress, promote well-being, and increase morale through interaction with therapy animals.

Pet interaction is associated with decreased stress and blood pressure. However, the impact of pet visitation on Health Care Professionals (HCPs) within their work environment is not well known. Our team decided to conduct a research study to evaluate HCPs perceived stress and blood pressure pre and post interaction with therapy animals at RUMC.

During the study,HCPs were invited to participate in the research during the established monthly Pet Pause Program. HCPs interacted with therapy dogs by petting, sitting with, and giving treats to the dogs. Some sessions included mini horses.

Pre and post interaction with the therapy animals, manual blood pressure, and self-assessed stress perception ratings using the Numeric Stress Scale (a Likert scale ranging from "0" or "No Stress" to "10" or "Unbearable Stress") were obtained. Students from the College of Nursing GEM program assisted with data collection.

Interim analysis of data from January 2016 to October 2016 was conducted. During this time, 778 HCPs attended scheduled Pet Pause sessions and 486 participated in the research. Post interaction with the therapy animals, there was a significant decrease in level of stress (pre mean 4.75; post mean 3.25; p<0.001) and systolic BP (pre mean 121; post mean 118; p<0.015).

So far, this unique monthly hospital program has shown to decrease participants’ perceived stress and blood pressure. But we are not done yet. We completed the study at RUMC and started the study at Rush Oak Park Hospital in August 2017.

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