15 May 2018 5 Respondents
By Vanessa Peutherer
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Health Professionals Debate - Animal Magic ? Quality Care / Compassion / Risk / Creativity - Values Snapshot

Health Professionals Debate - Animal Magic ? Quality Care / Compassion / Risk / Creativity - Values Snapshot

 Nine out of ten (90%) nurses believe animals can improve the health of patients with depression and other mental health problems, according to a survey of RCN members.

The survey of more than 750 nursing staff also found that more than 80% think animals can improve communication difficulties such as for people with autism. In addition, 82% said that animals, dogs in particular, encouraged patients to be more physically active, while nearly 60% said just the presence of animals seemed to speed physical recovery.

Nearly half of those surveyed have worked with animals in their career, from dogs and cats to ponies and chipmunks, and of those 98% said it benefited the patient.

However, almost a quarter of staff questioned said no animals were allowed where they worked.

Amanda Cheesley, RCN Professional Lead for Long-term Conditions and End-of-life care, said: “I’ve seen patients with animals in hospitals and in their homes – the difference it makes is remarkable. I used to take my Great Dane with me when I was a district nurse and he could put a smile on any patient's face.

“The RCN is calling for better, more consistent access to animals for all patients who can benefit, as the evidence is clear that as well as bringing joyful moments to people when they are unwell, the clinical benefits are tangible. Nurses have told us of patients with reduced anxiety, better interaction and a whole reason to live – and we should listen to these experiences.”

Of course, allowing service-users regular access to animals, whether for personal therapy / for personal pet visitation / animal assited activities is not without risks. For example, in an article published in 2015, Stotowski et al. ,  asserts that ...' Notwithstanding the potential for injuries should the animal react with aggression, humans are at risk for infection from the transmission of pathogens through direct or indirect contact with the animal and its secretions or excretions. Animals can carry and transmit a wide range of pathogens, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, Clostridium difficile, multidrug-resistant enterococci, extended-spectrum beta-lactamase–producing Enterobacteriaceae, Campylobacter, Salmonella, dermatophytes, and others.'

These risks would obviously be more worrying for service-users who had open-wounds, were in intensive therapy units or who are  immunocompromised.  However, many persons live with pets,  with little or no  apaparent harm .  With the right universal precautions, such as regualr hand-washing,  it could be argued that the potential risks to others or self could be reduced further with the correct strategies in place . Strategies could also include, for example, where a service user should access animals ? , or what veterinary safeguards could be implemented to reduce risks further such as  vaccination / animal behaviour assessments / health assessments.

What are your views ?

Should  all other health sevice users have access to animals in a health care facility ?

Do health service-users current[y have access to animals where you work ?

Which animals should be allowed and which should not ?

What are the perceived risks v benefits of allowing service users regualar access to animals in healthcare settings ?

How can risks to serivce users be minimised ?



Laura A. Stokowski, RN, MS; Reviewers: Rekha Murthy, MD; David J. Weber, MD, MPH ., 2015, Animals and Healthcare Facilities: A Healthy Match? http://www.medscape.com/features/slideshow/animals#page=1 accessed 30th January, 2017

It is proposed that most health service-users should have the opportunity to access animals in healthcare settings