Animal lovers already know how good it feels to interact with their pet. But when it comes to animals in hospitals, opinion remains divided even though research has shown that this positive effect can also be applied in a therapeutic setting. Leveraging the power of pets is becoming a vital tool in the treatment of a variety of medical conditions and disorders in spite of mixed opinions.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has said that dogs and other animals should be allowed into hospitals to help patients recover.

For more news, views and funny stuff follow Trending Nurses on Facebook:

The organization is drawing up guidelines for medical institutions on how to use animal therapy safely and effectively so that all patients who might benefit are able to access it.

Amanda Cheesley, who is leading the initiative, said that the new protocol would require that animals and their handlers be properly trained and that the dogs have had their basic health check-ups and inoculations.

In an interview with The Independent, Cheesley said“It should be more of the norm rather than the exception. In particular settings, like mental health and children’s settings, it can be really, really beneficial. A nurse who works in a brain injury center told me they’ve had someone who’s brought the dog in and it’s been wonderful. One or two patients have really seen a difference.”

However, according to a recent survey carried out by the RCN, more than 60% of staff said that animals were not allowed in their work[place.

Animals are often banned from ward as the staff is often averse to the risks it involves. It is understandable that the nursing staff want to protect their patients first and foremost. And it stands to reason that not all people like dogs so not everyone benefits from this kind of intervention.

Of the more than 750 nurses who took part in the survey, nine out of 10 said they believed animals could improve the wellbeing of patients with mental health problems such as depression, and 60 percent thought the presence of animals could help speed up physical recovery.

Animal therapy has been offered for five years at hospitals in Southampton, where qualified handler Lyndsey Uglow and golden retriever, Leo visit patients three days a week. Uglow and Leo are often asked to work with particular children and enter wards but only with the permission of the children’s parents and hospital consultants.

“Leo has worked with young people who are terrified of needles; [at operations] he’s there until the child goes to sleep, and is there when they wake up. It’s more than just that he’s nice to stroke,” said Ms Cheesley.

The animal therapy trend which seems to have gripped the United States has accelerated hugely since it began a few decades ago. It is based on the thinking that interaction with animals reduces stress. However, from a more scientific point of view, researchers in the field are concerned that there is not sufficient research carried out to prove that a furry embrace of a pet adds to the healing or recovery of a patient or even reduces distress.

Research by Molly Crossman, a Yale University doctoral candidate who recently completed one study involving an 8-year-old dog named Pardner, cited a “murky body of evidence” that sometimes has shown positive short-term effects, often found no effect and occasionally identified higher rates of distress.

Perhaps in life, it often seems that rather than just appreciating certain things, there is a tendency to over-think and quantify everything. Perhaps it is as simple as this: if you love dogs – animals for that matter – then why not allow them into your recovery space. And even if there is even the slightest bit of evidence to show that it has a positive effect, then embrace it. It is not for nothing that videos of pets seem to have taken over the internet on any given day.

Watch the video below and see for yourself.

For more news, views and funny stuff follow Trending Nurses on Facebook: