Background: A growing body of evidence suggests that pet therapy is a successful and cost-effective method for improving the self-reported and perceived mental health and well-being of university students (1,2,3). Therapy dogs were first introduced into Canadian universities in 2012 at the University of Ottawa(4). Pet therapy, using dogs, has been shown to reduce test anxiety (1,4), aid in relaxation, and improve human interactions (with other participants) (5). Therapy dogs are a cost-effective (no cost) non-traditional method of anxiety reduction that may serve as an important mental health service for those who might otherwise avoid seeking help due to the stigma surrounding traditional mental health services or to those who may only need support during stressful periods such as during exam time. In this presentation a unique collaboration among three universities will be discussed.
Objectives:1) Discussion of a unique, interprofessional, multi-university research collaboration will be described; and,
2) a three-pronged research approach, including two systematic reviews and a quasi-experimental study, will be explored.
Methods:Through this collaboration, two systematic reviews, one quantitative and one qualitative, were initiated to inform a research initiative aimed at exploring the impact of pet therapy on anxiety reduction among undergraduate nursing students. This study is aligned with the roll out of the university mental health strategy for students. In a recent campus-wide survey at the university among our students, results showed students “expressed feeling overwhelmed (90%), lonely (64%), very anxious (58%), or very sad (67%) at some point in the year prior”. The interprofessional research team for this study, made up of professors, librarians, graduate and undergraduate students, initially met through a Joanna Briggs Institute training session and will describe their journey in learning about and conducting systematic reviews.
Results:The research has received ethics approval and is in progress. Preliminary results of the two systematic reviews and subsequent research intervention will be presented.