Animal Assisted Therapy is an alternative approach to stress reduction, enhancement of social bonding, and moderation of physiological factors related to health and psychological well-being.
As early as the mid-1800s, nursing pioneer Florence Nightingale was credited as an advocate of animal therapy. In her Notes on Nursing, she states “a small pet is often an excellent companion for the sick, for long chronic cases especially.” Nightingale had, for a time, an animal companion named Athena the owl which she carried in her pocket.
KSN has introduced an innovative and fun program to improve the educational environment for students, faculty and staff. This program makes dogs available for visits by engaging in an ongoing research project to measure the effect of the presence of a dog in the nursing school environment.
KSN Animal Assisted Therapy Project History
Our project started with Tillie Mae, a miniature Australian Shepherd certified as a therapy dog by H.A.L.O. She resided in an office suite with faculty and staff. Individuals who wanted to sit with her and play or go for a walk could sign in and enjoy between five minutes and an hour interacting with her. Her gregarious nature made every visit special.
Tillie also visited classrooms at the request of the faculty member. She was often requested for a classroom visit prior to a stressful event such as an exam or a presentation. Accommodations were made for those wishing to have no contact with a dog. Data was collected regarding her visit from both the faculty member and the students who participate.
Tillie’s presence on campus was helpful to students on several levels. She provided a method to modify stress and anxiety in a college that requires high performance on a daily basis. Tillie also assisted students to think outside the box and understand that as a health care professional, patients need to be analyzed from a holistic approach.
Animal Assisted Therapy Dog in Training
You can help develop the character of a therapy dog! KSN now has a puppy in training. Tucker is a Yorkie, and he is available for interaction based on the handler’s approval. Check with Dr. Cook in room 103 regarding his availability. Tucker’s experiences will be part of our ongoing research about animal assisted therapy.