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.
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.
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.
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.
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