WASHINGTON: Interacting with a therapy dog for several minutes may help lower stress in physicians and nurses working evening shifts in the emergency departments of hospitals, according to a study.
In the 122-participant study, emergency providers randomised to a five-minute interaction with a therapy dog and handler had a significant reduction in self-reported anxiety using a visual analogue scale.
The reduction in stress was in comparison with patients randomised to colouring mandalas for five minutes with coloured pencils, according to the study published in the journal Academic Emergency Medicine.
At the end of the shift, emergency providers had lower salivary cortisol -- a stress hormone -- with either colouring or therapy dog interactions compared with controls, the researchers said.
"Many healthcare workers and laypersons believe that dog-assisted support can improve emotional well-being in the healthcare setting, but little hard data exist to scientifically evaluate this belief, especially in emergency care," said lead author Jeffrey A Kline from the Indiana University School of Medicine in the US.
"We provide novel data to suggest that emergency care providers enjoyed seeing a dog on shift, and received a small benefit in stress reduction after the interaction," Kline said.
The researchers still do not know the extent to which the benefit was from the dog, the handler, or the combination of the two.