Joanna Allen-Boyd with her service dog Spencer.
How pet therapy dogs can reduce stress for nurses too.

In healthcare settings, staff continue to face busy, non-stop work environments. Finding appropriate breaks and downtime to mindfully refresh is increasingly difficult.

We have found at my facility that pet therapy dogs are just the right answer to providing a break from the constant daily work stresses. Many organizations have pet therapy programs in place for patients, but pet therapy is just as beneficial for the staff!

Many organizations have pet therapy programs in place for patients, but pet therapy is just as beneficial for the staff!

The pet therapy dogs visit every Tuesday in my hospital. When the pet therapy dogs arrive, I witness team members go from having a bad day (along with the bad mood) to having an elevated mood and portraying a sense of hope.

Not surprisingly, studies have shown that pet therapy gives a calming sense and lowers stress levels. We have found that the dogs are welcomed by the staff, even on the busiest and hardest days.

The team states that pet therapy dogs provide a good distraction and improve their emotions. The dogs will dress up for special occasions and even have their very own employee badges. I have noticed that even on the good days where staff can take breaks, they will shorten their lunchtime to visit with the dogs to still gain the stress relief benefits.

The staff are also known to go to another unit to see the dogs if they were busy during the timeframe that they rounded in their home units. After the therapy dogs leave, you feel a sense of energy within the environment. You see everyone smiling and you feel less tired.

Organizations that provide pet therapy to the staff certainly understand the need to bring strategies to reduce stress in the environment right to the clinicians at the bedside.

This tactic has made one of the biggest impacts to help reduce the stress of the healthcare team. The literature presents evidence that providing pet therapy to healthcare teams has a positive impact on employees’ well-being, a reduction in workplace stress, and improvements in productivity, and work quality.

Does your facility offer pet therapy for staff?

If not, it is certainly a feasible method to consider for reducing the stress of the team and promoting a healthy work environment.

Photo: Joanna Allen-Boyd with her pet therapy/service dog Spencer. Spencer has accompanied Joanna in the hospital, during therapy and recovery, during flights (in her seat), and on trains.

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