A stay in hospital can be boring, frustrating and frankly depressing. It is disconcerting to find yourself in unfamiliar surroundings and, if you feel miserable, your mood will do nothing to help you recover from your illness.
Naturally a visit from your much loved pet would be very welcome but could pet visits become the norm in hospitals?
Royal College of Nurses
The Royal College of Nurses is saying that pets should be permitted to visit their owners in hospital. A survey of 750 nurses found that almost half of them had worked with animals in the past. The pets that the nurses had dealt with were mainly cats and dogs but also some more unusual visitors including ponies and chipmunks!
82% of the nurses surveyed believed that the visiting pets encouraged patients to be more active and 60% said that the presence of the animals had appeared to speed up recovery times. In addition, patients who are scared of needles can feel more relaxed before surgery if their pet goes with them to the operating theatre.
Bans on Pets
In spite of the perceived benefits, many hospitals have banned all animals, mainly because they feel that the pets could spread infection. Nurses, on the other hand, believe that hospitals should do more to respect the needs and wishes of the patients. There will be patients and visitors who are scared of certain animals but it should be possible to manage these situations when and if they arise.
Good for Patients and Good for Pets
In addition to helping the patients, visits would be great for the pets, many of which would be missing their owners terribly.
The Royal College of Nurses is developing a protocol for dealing with pets. This will lay out all of the relevant considerations including how to manage the risk of infections. You can’t allow dogs to wander around the hospital and they must have had their vaccinations but it should be possible to cope with pet visits.
Perhaps new guidance will encourage more institutions to permit pets to visit their. Animals have proved to be extremely therapeutic for many patients, especially for those suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Alzheimer’s. The University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation trust has just begun a study to investigate whether therapy dogs can help children to recover from treatment. There are many potential benefits of pet visits which have yet to be explored.
There could be numerous ways in which animals can help those in hospital to recover more quickly or at least to feel happier and more relaxed.