News

Stress-busting dogs help nursing students cope with their courses

Canine teaching assistants are available for drop-in pet therapy sessions
Dogs provide pet therapy students

Canine teaching assistants are available for drop-in pet therapy sessions for nursing students at Middlesex University

Dogs are helping nursing students deal with exam stress, anxiety, homesickness and may have even prevented some of them dropping out of programmes.

Labradors employed to enhance the student experience

As part of a well-being initiative at Middlesex University, eight Labrador dogs who each have university staff ID badges were trained as canine teaching assistants to reduce anxiety and support the student experience.

Dog therapy: access to pets helps students to de-stress

Nursing students started visiting the dogs during twice weekly drop-in sessions when the project began as a pilot in 2018.

Project co-founder and associate lecturer in adult nursing Josh Sharman said sessions have

Canine teaching assistants are available for drop-in pet therapy sessions for nursing students at Middlesex University


Three of the Labradors helping nursing students cope with their courses at Middlesex University

Dogs are helping nursing students deal with exam stress, anxiety, homesickness – and may have even prevented some of them dropping out of programmes.

Labradors employed to enhance the student experience 

As part of a well-being initiative at Middlesex University, eight Labrador dogs – who each have university staff ID badges – were trained as canine teaching assistants to reduce anxiety and support the student experience.


Dog therapy: access to pets helps
students to de-stress

Nursing students started visiting the dogs during twice weekly drop-in sessions when the project began as a pilot in 2018.

Project co-founder and associate lecturer in adult nursing Josh Sharman said sessions have since been extended to the entire university, due to its success.

Mr Sharman said the idea was sparked after therapeutic animals, including farm animals, horses and dogs were brought to the university as part of an inter-professional learning event.

'We noticed students were enjoying spending time with all the animals and, from a logistical point of view, dogs were easiest to do a risk assessment on for an ongoing project.'

Drop-in sessions with therapeutic dogs help students open up about anxieties

All the dogs are owned by staff members at the university's health faculty and are risk-assessed and trained by a certified animal trainer. 

Mr Sharman said nursing students began opening up about their academic and practical difficulties after attending drop-in sessions, which he believes has prevented some from dropping out.

He added that the project provided support and a space to escape from academic work: 'Students would spend time with the dogs and then speak to academics about things like essay writing or would open up and talk about their anxieties or issues.'

Pet therapy enables nursing students to de-stress

'When we were holding difficult sessions on emotional topics, such as death or doing simulations that are stress-inducing, we gave the students opportunities to de-stress with the dogs – it really did lift their spirits.'

Third-year nursing student Zoe Carciente said the dogs had made a big difference to her learning experience.

‘Exams can be a stressful time, especially for a mature student who is out of practice,’ she said.

‘Having canine teaching assistants available for pet therapy really does help ease the mind and focus for exams.’


In other news

Sign up to continue reading for FREE

OR

Subscribe for unlimited access

Enjoy 1 month's access for £1 and get:

  • Full access to nursing standard.com and the Nursing Standard app
  • Monthly digital edition
  • RCNi Portfolio and interactive CPD quizzes
  • RCNi Learning with 200+ evidence-based modules
  • 10 articles a month from any other RCNi journal

This article is not available as part of an institutional subscription. Why is this?

Jobs