Often found in hospitals, rehabilitation facilities, and nursing homes, therapy dogs can offer stress relief for those in need.
Now, Yale Medical school is also enlisting the services of a therapy dog to help students manage stress. Finn, a three-year old certified therapy dog, will be on call every friday for two hours for students. “Animal-assisted therapy is an ever-expanding practice that traditionally involves allowing a patient to spend time with an animal, and research has shown that benefits of the practice include reduced levels of stress hormones, lower blood pressure, improved fine motor skills and a greater ability to communicate with others,” according to background information provided in the story announcing the school’s latest practice.
Prior to Yale, Finn worked as a therapy dog at a nursing home community in Boston where he had the “gift of being in a crowded room and still having the ability to make you feel like you’re getting all of his attention. In 2011, when the Yale Law Library introduced its new therapy dog Monty, the library’s new resource gained national media attention and has since drawn crowds of visitors.
Students and staff say they hope that Finn’s presence at the medical library will “provide a stress-relieving outlet for the community and “bring a little joy into the building.” Studies have shown that interaction with dogs increases the level of Oxycontin, a hormone linked to the reduction of anxiety and blood pressure.
Specifically, researchers have shown that petting a dog or caring for a pet can help people feel less scared, and has the effect of distracting them away from their own fears or anxieties. Furthermore, research also shows that excessive stress, like the kind students may experience during medical school, has a negative impact on memory. A stress-relieving activity, even a shortlived
one like petting a dog, can significantly improve a student’s ability to retain and comprehend the large amounts of information they are required to learn during medical school.