February 13, 2018

Johns Hopkins allowing animal-assisted therapy in ICU

By: Judy Mathias
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Editor’s Note

Bringing specially trained dogs into ICUs can safely and substantially ease patients’ physical and emotional pain, according to Johns Hopkins researchers.

Having seen how successful animal-assisted therapy was in the inpatient rehabilitation unit at Johns Hopkins, the researchers adapted the hospital’s protocol to safely bring dogs to ICU patients.

Patients who participated in animal therapy were able to meet goals faster by involving the animals, for example, standing for longer periods of time while patting a dog. Once a dog is in the room staring up at the patient, it is hard for a patient to avoid engaging, the researchers say. In other cases, a dog may just sit on a patient’s lap, providing a calm, affectionate presence that has been shown to improve mood and pain ratings.

Ten patients received visits from dogs in 2017, ranging in age from 20 to 80. Each patient had at least one 20 to 30 minute visit from a therapy dog while in the medical ICU.

In an editorial that draws on results of previously published studies and experiences in their medical intensive care unit (ICU), a team of Johns Hopkins Medicine professionals say that bringing specially trained dogs into ICUs can safely and substantially ease patients’ physical and emotional suffering.

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