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Evaluation of a new animal assisted intervention service for an adult intensive care unit

Ruth Johnson

  • Abstract
  • Full text
  • References
  • Appendices
  • Figures & Tables


An animal assisted intervention (AAI) is an intervention between an animal and a patient during a medical, nursing or therapeutic procedure. It humanises patient care, reduces suffering and loneliness and improves mood. It is a developing service within critical care environments. The current research of AAI in critical care is limited.


The AAI was provided by a registered pets as therapy (PAT) volunteer and their dog collaborating with intensive care unit (ICU) staff. After the AAI the patient, visitor or staff member completed an electronic questionnaire using the Survey Monkey application on an iPad. The questionnaire comprised of 10 questions of mixed methods design.

The aim of this service evaluation was to ascertain if the AAI service was feasible and safe. The service evaluation would also measure the impact of the service on patients, visitors and staff. The overall objective of the service evaluation was to determine if the service should continue and to identify areas for development.


47 questionnaire responses were obtained from 2 groups of responders: (1) patients and visitors; and (2) staff. There were no concerns in relation to the dog’s presentation, welfare, cleanliness or handling highlighted by responders. A 10-point Likert scale was used with free text options for comments. 83% of patients and visitors rated the level of enjoyment of the AAI as a maximum score; whilst 70% of staff rated a maximum score for level of enjoyment of the AAI for the patient. 75% of patients and visitors rated the AAI as extremely beneficial. Emergent themes were identified from the qualitative data. These were: mood; distraction; dog and handler; AAI; recommendations, impact and infection control. The first 5 themes were shared between the 2 groups of responders.

Discussion and conclusion

The data collected demonstrated that providing the service was feasible and safe. Overall, there was a positive response to the service from all responders. This evaluation supports similar findings from the limited research base and highlights areas for future service development.

2021 Journal (Vol. 53 Issue 2)
Journal of the Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Respiratory Care. Volume 53. Issue 2. 2021 Article on: p44-57
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