Effect of Pet Therapy on Patients’ Anxiety in the Pediatric Emergency Department

Student Author(s)

Jacqueline Roodbeen

Faculty Mentor(s)

Cassie Patel, BS, CCLS, CPST, and Susan Dunn, PhD, RN

Document Type


Event Date



Pet therapy is a healthcare intervention in which an animal is an integral part of the treatment process. Despite the numerous studies documenting the benefits of pet therapy, there is limited research examining the effects of pet therapy in the pediatric population and the pediatric emergency department (PED). According to Florence Nightingale’s Environmental Nursing Theory, a patient’s healthcare experience and recovery can be positively impacted by manipulation of a stressful environment. A pet therapy intervention may therefore decrease the stressful environment of a PED. The purpose of this pre- and post-test quasiexperimental study is to describe the impact of pet therapy (dogs) in a PED. Research questions that will be addressed include: 1) Is there a reduction in pediatric patients’ anxiety ratings after a pet therapy intervention, as perceived by the patients and by their parents/caregivers and 2) Is there a difference in preand post-anxiety ratings in patients who receive pet therapy when compared with patients who do not receive pet therapy? The anxiety level of pediatric patients, ages 5-18 years, will be examined before and after pet therapy visits (using both patient and caregiver responses) using an anxiety scale developed for the study. Data will be collected from a large children’s hospital in Michigan with an anticipated sample size of 72 patients (36 receiving pet therapy and 36 who are not). The student researcher will collect data during January 2015 with analysis, interpretation, and conclusions by February 2015. After data collection, independent and paired t-tests will be used to analyze data using SPSS statistical software. Results and conclusions are pending. Anticipated limitations include lack of randomization, a self-report anxiety instrument, use of an anxiety scale with unknown reliability and validity, and potential subject bias due to the short time period between the pre- and post-data collections. Potential implications for nursing include increased understanding of pet therapy as an effective intervention to reduce anxiety in children in the PED, which could improve their overall health during their hospital stay. Future research is needed with larger sample sizes in a variety of PEDs to further explore pet therapy as an effective intervention.

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