Nursing students are known to have high stress levels during their nursing programs. While many researchers have explored different coping mechanisms to help nursing students cope with their stress and anxiety, not many have looked at animal interventions.

I am a huge fan of animal interventions after seeing their positive effects on patients (and staff) while I was working bedside in the hospital. Frustrated or anxious patients would usually become more accepting of care after a visit from an animal. Scared and lonely patients who were shutting down became more vibrant and open. Visitors and staff also benefitted from the visits. There were many times that as the therapy animal came down the hallway to a patient room, staff members stopped and took a moment to relax with the animal in a way that clearly refreshed them.

Becoming a therapy animal handler.

Seeing the effects of therapy animals in the hospital inspired me to pursue being a therapy animal handler myself. The hospital where I work had rabbits as part of their therapy animal program. This was a small enough animal for me to handle and care for. I picked out my first two, and I was hooked from the get-go.

The rabbits are very interactive—I like to say they are nosy. All rabbits chosen to be therapy animals are very comfortable with being petted and interacted with; they must undergo recertification every two years through Pet Partners, the volunteer organization through which we are registered. Even children and others who are afraid of dogs tend to be comfortable with them.

I currently have three registered rabbits—along with one retired old lady rabbit and two new babies that will hopefully become the next generation of therapy rabbits. They are litter box trained, live in my house, and have free time for roaming every day.

As a team, my rabbits and I have visited long-term care centers, colleges, libraries, counseling centers, the local hospital, domestic violence shelters, and recovery centers, just to name a few. My passion for animal therapy has transferred to many different areas of my life, most notably my passion for nursing education.

The stress of nursing students.

When I first started my nursing educator journey, it was hard to witness nursing students who were intensely stressed and anxious both from life challenges and nursing school curriculum with no real way to offer to help them. I could make suggestions, but ultimately I had no control over whether they carried through and made use of them or not. Usually my suggestions for coping with stress were meditation, yoga, deep breathing, and walking.

I began to wonder if the phenomena of stress and anxiety relief from animal therapy that I had noticed in outside institutions would work on nursing students. I started bringing the rabbits with me to work at least one day a week, more if I knew there was a particularly big exam on a certain day. It was a hit. The nursing students would look for me and the rabbits on exam days. Slowly, students started stopping by my office during class breaks, lunches, and in between other classes. It gave the students a chance to get their mind off of their stresses. I liked being able to connect with the students and I liked that they felt they had a safe place with the bunnies when things got too overwhelming.

Studying animal-related stress relief.

I eventually did my PhD dissertation on the effects of the animals on stress and anxiety levels of nursing students. The results confirmed what I suspected: animal therapy session do lower nursing students’ stress and anxiety levels.

I truly believe that this is one of my callings in this life. I get so much joy from being able to share my rabbits with others. They help so many people every day, I plan to continue to bring them to university with me for the foreseeable future.

By Karen (Beth) Ballenger, PhD, RN, assistant professor, Shenandoah University Eleanor Wade Custer School of Nursing

Source link

Our other Services


Find Pincode


By Gnurse

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *