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A case study of the patient wait experience in an emergency department with therapy dogs

By Colleen A. Dell, James Stempien, Lindsey Broberg, Alicia Husband, Lacey Jurke, Betty Rohr, Jane Smith, Joseph Rubin, Susan Tupper, Donna Goodridge, Cathie Fornssler, Logan Fele-Slaferek

Category Journal Articles

The quality of patient healthcare is a growing concern in Canada’s hospital emergency departments (ED) due to increasing wait times and associated adverse outcomes. A developing body of literature indicates that therapy dogs can positively impact the patient experience. In 2016, members of our team partnered with the Royal University Hospital (RUH) in Saskatchewan to become the first ED in Canada to integrate a visiting therapy dog to positively impact the patient wait experience. The aim of this preliminary case study was to examine if and how this unique initiative impacted patients’ feelings during their ED wait. A brief questionnaire was completed with one-hundred and twenty-four patients pre and post-therapy dog visit and a research observer documented the encounters. Quantitative and qualitative analysis of the data revealed that visiting with a therapy dog in the ED appeared to improve patients’ feelings. Specifically, patients’ perceived comfort levels increased and their distress levels decreased, and the encounters were considered by patients to be a welcome distraction from the stressful ED environment. Our team, comprised of clinicians, researchers, therapy dog handlers and patient advocates documented the advantages and challenges of implementing the initiative. The outcomes support further study of patients’ wait time experiences in the ED and the utility of a visiting therapy dog.


Marcy Wilhelm-South

Purdue University

Date 2019
Publication Title Patient Experience Journal
Volume 6
Issue 1
Pages 115-126
DOI 10.35680/2372-0247.1306
Language English
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal roles
  2. Canada
  3. Dogs
  4. Emergency
  5. Mammals
  6. open access
  7. patients
  8. Pets and companion animals
  9. therapy animals
  1. open access