‘It’s pawsome!’ - Therapy dogs make waiting experience pawsitive for patients
Author: My Linh Truong, 4th year student nurse, School of Nursing & Midwifery.
Summer of 2023, as a student nurse awardee on the Summer Undergraduate Research Experience, I worked on a research project that aimed to conduct a scoping review of the impacts of animal-assisted intervention (AAI) on patients’ waiting times and contributing factors to such impacts. As part of a team of dog handlers, I was paired up with My Canine Companion (MCC) Anna, the Glandore Suite waiting room dog. Anna’s presence in Glandore Suite is an on-going initiative by the Radiation Therapy Department to enhance the patients’ and staff experience with the services provided here. This initiative was realized under the collaboration between the teams at Glandore Suite (Cork University Hospital-team listed below), My Canine Companion (MCC-team listed below), and Dr. Irene Hartigan School of Nursing & Midwifery, UCC.
On our first day in the Glandore Suite, MCC Anna confidently charmed the waiting area. She stepped in with confidence and showed me how to work her audience. Her interactions with patients had a special touch, phones were put aside as patients reached out to pet MCC Anna. During various sessions, MCC Anna broke the ice and fostered connections, bridging the gap between strangers, sparking conversations about their pets as if they'd known each other for ages. She brought people together, spreading laughter even with her playful antics, like when she had eyes on the catering window.
What I observed in Glandore Suite was resounding captured in the current literature, that therapy dogs have positive impact on patients’ psychological state. Evidence also suggests that AAI has a positive impact on pain tolerance, leading to reduced medication needs and improved engagement. Therapy dogs expertly bridge communication gaps, easing stress and anxiety, fostering invaluable patient-provider interactions. Through the SURE experience, I've not only expanded my expertise in this domain but also honed my research skills in database searching, screening, and analysis. This journey has be transformative and underscored the importance of relationship building with partners and upholding research integrity. Thank you to my supervisor Dr Irene Hartigan, School of Nursing & Midwifery and also the College of Medicine and Health for funding the student learning opportunity.
Glandore Centre Team Members:
- Claire Harman - Research & Development Clinical Specialist
- Claire Keating - Radiation Therapy Services Manager
- Kate Fitzgerald – MCC handler and Radiation therapist
- Tracy Doyle – MCC trainer
- Therapy dog teams: Letitia Hassett & MCC Alfie, Nóirín Moynihin & MCC Sandy.
Dr Irene Hartigan, Senior Lecturer, School of Nursing & Midwifery.
My Linh Truong, 4th year student nurse, School of Nursing & Midwifery.
Maeve Barrett, Music student, University College Cork.
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