Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) has been thought to have a therapeutic effect upon humans, especially those individuals who are confined due to age or illness. Human-animal contact encourages socialization for the lonely; it promotes movement in the relatively immobile, and may serve as a memory prompt for the elderly and just plain talking for nearly everyone. An animal visit can offer entertainment or a welcome distraction from pain and illness. People often talk to the animals, and share with them their thoughts, feelings and memories. Animal visits provide something to look forward to. Petting encourages use of hands and arms, stretching and turning. Animals have a comforting, reassuring effect on people that has been shown to lower blood pressure, reduce stress, decrease anxiety and depression, lessen the feelings of loneliness and isolation, aid in socialization and acceptance between people. Animals pay little attention to a person's age, physical appearance or mental ability, but offer their love and acceptance unconditionally. Results are small miracles in the forms of smiles where there were frowns; in sounds where there was silence; in movement where there was weariness; in comfort where there was pain. The purposes of this research study was to assess if AAT would result in shorter length of stay for hospitalized patients and improve basic need status and physical outcomes such as blood pressure, heart rate, pain.
The Basic Need Satisfaction Inventory Tool (BNSI) created by Nancy Klein Leidy, PhD (Leidy, 1994) using Maslow’s Theory provided the theoretical framework for this study. Maslow’s theory contends that as humans meet basic needs, they seek to satisfy successively higher needs that occupy a hierarchy. Dr. Leidy created a twenty seven item questionnaire using a Likert scale. This tool was divided into five subscales each addressing physical needs, safety, belonging, self-esteem and self-actualization needs (Leidy, 1994). The non-random sample in this study consisted of forty-five patients (n=30 experimental group and n=15 control group), seeking medical care in a community hospital for recently diagnosed cancer. Participants completed two pencil and paper questionnaires, consent for study and release of responsibility waiver to the hospital. Data analyses included descriptive statistics and independent-sample t-tests. Patients in the experimental group showed significantly better results (p<0.5) with blood pressure, pain, and belonging needs being met. Findings from this study suggest that there is a substantial need for further studies to determine benefit not only to patients but staff as well. The findings can be useful for the medical community and nurse practitioners as we learn more about AAT.
Mason N McLary
|Department||Department of Nursing|