‘Watson’ the wellness dog: Impact of a wellness dog on emotional wellbeing in undergraduate paramedicine students
pdf

Keywords

brief emotional experience scale
therapy animals
allied health personnel
students
universities
mental health

How to Cite

1.
Hill M, Mills B, Rogers S, Vance L, Dykstra P, Holmes L. ‘Watson’ the wellness dog: Impact of a wellness dog on emotional wellbeing in undergraduate paramedicine students. Australasian Journal of Paramedicine [Internet]. 2021Jul.22 [cited 2021Sep.22];18. Available from: https://ajp.paramedics.org/index.php/ajp/article/view/943

Abstract

Introduction

University life can be daunting, especially for those transferring directly from high school. Previous research has found higher education students are at increased risk of mental health issues than the general population. Paramedic students have the usual concerns regarding study, in addition to the potential to be exposed to confronting emergency medical situations during clinical placements. The study aim was to examine whether the presence of a wellness dog had any impact on paramedicine undergraduate students self-reported emotional wellbeing.

Methods

A wellness dog (named ‘Watson’) was available on alternating weeks for 15 minutes at the beginning of lectures for three individual units. Each unit corresponded to a different year group of paramedic undergraduate students. A brief emotional experience scale was completed at the beginning of each lecture. Comparisons were made between Watson being present versus absent to gauge differences in students’ emotional wellness. Focus groups were run at the end of semester to further explore perceptions of Watson’s impact on emotional wellbeing.

Results

A total of 89 participants were included in the study. Participant emotional wellbeing was found to be higher on ‘Watson present’ weeks compared to ‘Watson absent’ weeks (p<0.001). Focus group data strongly supported Watson’s presence in clinical and non-clinical classes, improving self-reported wellbeing and cohort connectivity.

Conclusion

The presence of a wellness dog appears to have a beneficial impact on undergraduate paramedic students’ emotional wellbeing. Further research is required to explore whether the presence of a wellness dog affects physiological indicators of stress, attrition rates and class attendance.

https://doi.org/10.33151/ajp.18.943
pdf

References

Binfet JT, Passmore HA. Hounds and homesickness: the effects of an animal-assisted therapeutic intervention for first-year university students. Anthrozoos 2016;29:441-54. doi: 10.1080/08927936.2016.1181364

O’Keeffe P. A sense of belonging: Improving student retention. Coll Stud J 2013;47:605-13.

Binfet JT. The effects of group-administered canine therapy on university students’ wellbeing: a randomized controlled trial. Anthrozoos 2017;30:397-414. doi: 10.1080/08927936.2017.1335097

Fiocco AJ, Hunse AM. The buffer effect of therapy dog exposure on stress reactivity in undergraduate students. Int J Environ Res Public Health 2017;14:707. doi: 10.3390/ijerph14070707

Gil DP, García MG, Trujillo CC. Dog-assisted intervention at a Spanish university: pilot study. J Appl Res High Educ 2019;12:344-56.

Velde BP, Cipriani J, Fisher G. Resident and therapist views of animal‐assisted therapy: implications for occupational therapy practice. Aust Occup Ther J 2005;52:43-50. doi: 10.1111/j.1440-1630.2004.00442.x

Wood E, Ohlsen S, Thompson J, Hulin J, Knowles L. The feasibility of brief dog-assisted therapy on university students stress levels: the PAwS study. J Ment Health 2018;27:263-8. doi: 10.1080/09638237.2017.1385737

Charry-Sánchez JD, Pradilla I, Talero-Gutiérrez C. Animal-assisted therapy in adults: a systematic review. Complement Ther Clin Pract 2018;32:169-80. doi: 10.1016/j.ctcp.2018.06.011

Auerbach RP, Mortier P, Bruffaerts R, et al. WHO World Mental Health Surveys International College Student Project: prevalence and distribution of mental disorders. J Abnorm Psychol 2018;127:623. doi: 10.1037/abn0000362

Oswalt SB, Lederer AM, Chestnut-Steich K, et al. Trends in college students’ mental health diagnoses and utilization of services, 2009-2015. J Am Coll Health 2020;68:41-51. doi: 10.1080/07448481.2018.1515748

Skead NK, Rogers SL, Doraisamy J. Looking beyond the mirror: psychological distress; disordered eating, weight and shape concerns; and maladaptive eating habits in lawyers and law students. Int J Law Psychiatry 2018;61:90-102. doi: 10.1016/j.ijlp.2018.06.002

Skead NK, Rogers SL, Johnson WR. The role of place, people and perception in law student well-being. ibid. 2020;73:101631. doi: 10.1016/j.ijlp.2020.101631

Stallman HM. Psychological distress in university students: a comparison with general population data. Aust Psychol 2010;45:249-57. doi: 10.1080/00050067.2010.482109

Lannon A, Harrison P. Take a paws: fostering student wellness with a therapy dog program at your university library. Public Serv Q 2015;11:13-22. doi: 10.1080/15228959.2014.984264

Dell CA, Chalmers D, Gillett J, et al. PAWSing student stress: a pilot evaluation study of the St. John Ambulance Therapy Dog Program on three university campuses in Canada. Can J Couns Psychother 2015;49:332-59.

Reynolds JA, Rabschutz L. Studying for exams just got more relaxing - animal-assisted activities at the university of connecticut library. Coll Undergrad Libr 2011;18:359-67. doi: 10.1080/10691316.2011.624934

Binfet J-T, Passmore H-A, Cebry A, Struik K, McKay C. Reducing university students’ stress through a drop-in canine-therapy program. J Ment Health 2018;27:197-204. doi: 10.1080/09638237.2017.1417551

Norton MJ, Funaro MC, Rojiani R. Improving healthcare professionals’ well-being through the use of therapy dogs. J Hosp Librarians 2018;18:203-9. doi: 10.1080/15323269.2018.1471898

Gebhart V, Buchberger W, Klotz I, et al. Distraction‐focused interventions on examination stress in nursing students: effects on psychological stress and biomarker levels. A randomized controlled trial. Int J Nurs Pract 2020;26:e12788. doi: 10.1111/ijn.12788

Kennedy S, Kenny A, O’Meara P. Student paramedic experience of transition into the workforce: a scoping review. Nurse Educ Today 2015;35:1037-43. doi: 10.1016/j.nedt.2015.04.015

Barker SB, Knisely JS, McCain NL, Best AM. Measuring stress and immune response in healthcare professionals following interaction with a therapy dog: a pilot study. Psychol Rep 2005;96:713-29.

Kline JA, VanRyzin K, Davis JC, et al. Randomized trial of therapy dogs versus deliberative coloring (art therapy) to reduce stress in emergency medicine providers. Acad Emerg Med 2020;27:266-75. doi: 10.1111/acem.13939

Rogers S, Cruickshank T, Nosaka K. The reliability and validity of the Brief Emotional Experience Scale (BEES) as a measure of positive and negative affect. 2021. PsyArXiv Available at: https://psyarxiv.com/p4j7t/ https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/p4j7t

Thatcher A, Zhang M, Todoroski H, et al. Predicting the impact of COVID-19 on Australian universities. J Risk Financ Manag 2020;13:188. doi: 10.3390/jrfm13090188