Emergency Hospital

A visit from a dog can reduce the distress of patients waiting for emergency treatment in hospital, a study by the University of Saskatchewan (USask) shows. Patients who spent 10 minutes with a visiting therapy dog a four year old springer spaniel named Murphy–reported they felt more comfortable, happier and less distress while waiting for emergency care in hospital.
The study, publish in the Patient Experience Journal, find a significant increase in comfort levels and positive feelings after spending time petting, cuddling or interacting with the experience canine. The study was carry out at the Royal University Hospital (RUH) in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan the first emergency department in Canada to introduce therapy dogs to improve the experience of waiting patients.

Comfort dogs can be beneficial

There is growing evidence that therapy or comfort dogs can be beneficial to human health and can reduce anxiety, heart rate and blood pressure. Interaction with a dog increases production of dopamine; hence a neurotransmitter, which reduces the stress hormone cortisol. Emergency departments are hectic and confusing places.
Most people waiting for treatment feel nervous, and waiting can increase their pain. It is well-known that interacting with animals can help humans feel calm and relax. Our study show a noticeable improvement in the patient’s mood after interacting with a therapy dog, Dell said. With waiting times consistently high in emergency departments; hence it suggests that therapy dogs may have a broader therapeutic role to play comforting patients in distress and pain.

RUH is the first emergency department in Canada to allow therapy dogs to visit; so with up to six train therapy dogs now visiting several days a week. Patients met the dog for between 10 and 30 minutes and include people; also with cardiac complaints, fractures, psychiatric issues, and those suffering chronic pain.

The 124 patients were waiting in curtain off cubicles and found their distress levels decreased; also their perceive comfort levels increase after interacting with the spaniel, a certify St. John Ambulance Therapy Dog and its handler. The distress of patients meeting Murphy decrease regardless of the length of their wait.

Dog put his head on their chest

Sixty six percent of those visit by Murphy patted him; so stroke him or cuddled him. One patient gave the dog a massage and some snuggle up to him or let the dog put his head on their chest. In almost a quarter of cases; the dog’s ‘intuition’ when interacting with a patient was noted.

Logan Fele-Slaferek, a co author of the paper and patient advocate; hence they met Murphy on several occasions while an RUH inpatient for a recurrent health condition. On one occasion, after a six month long treatment program had fail; also they was feeling crushed and hopeless; hence the spaniel jumped on Logan’s lap and fell asleep.

They was a little skeptical about his helping at first; but that all change five minutes later. The dog picks up on your mood or temperament better than most people would. They help my recovery immensely. It’s something about being next to an animal that exudes nothing but love and kindness, Fele-Slaferek, an undergraduate at USask, said. The emergency department can be so hectic; but time slows down when you are with a therapy dog. His presence is soothing.
This preliminary study has led to Dell and her team being award; hence a research grant of $20,000 from the Royal University Hospital Foundation to undertake further research at RUH into the impact of therapy dog visits on adult emergency department patients and their experiences of pain.