We Know That Therapy Dogs Are Great For Hospital Patients, But What About Hospital Staff?

The day in the life of a hospital employee has more stress than the average job. Between helping sick patients, updating worried families, and dealing with insurers, it’s no surprise that nurses, doctors, and other hospital staff experience burn out.

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Could a dose of furry, slobbery dogs be just what they need to reduce their workplace stress? Nurse researchers at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago are trying to find out.


The hospital has held monthly Pet Pause sessions each month for over a year, bringing in a mixture of adoptable dogs from local shelters and organized animal therapy groups. The program has been a resounding success with patients, which gave nurse researchers the idea to test it out on hospital staff.

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Each month hospital staff, including nurses, doctors, and students, are invited to spend some one-on-one time with lovable pups. Each participant undergoes blood pressure measurements and fills out questionnaires rating their stress levels before and after the puppy sessions.

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Past research on animal therapy has found that interacting with animals reduces stress hormone levels, blood pressure, and heart rate, and so far similar results are being seen with hospital staff.


Ben Gerling, one of the nurses participating in the study, saw a 10-point drop in his blood pressure after spending time with the dogs. Another graduate student, Benjamin Gonzales, also noticed the positive effects of the dogs: “I could feel the big sighs coming out of me when I was with the dogs, so I know that just coming to this had made my day less stressful.”

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When hospital staff are able to step away from their day-to-day stress and recharge with some furry friends, they go back with a renewed energy to help their patients. As you can imagine, this is a win-win for all parties involved; staff feel better and patients receive the best quality of care. This is another great example of how dogs are making our lives better just by being their adorable, cuddly selves.

H/t The Toronto Star

and Featured Image via Pet Partners

Tori Holmes

6 years ago