Implementing a hospital-based animal therapy program for children with cancer: A descriptive study

Johanne Gagnon, France Bouchard, Marie Landry, Marthe Belles-Isles, Martine Fortier, Lise Fillion

Abstract


Children living with cancer must cope with the disease, frequent hospitalizations, aggressive treatments and numerous treatment side effects. Combined, these stressors can lead to adverse biopsychosocial effects. An animal therapy program called “A Magical Dream” was instituted for children hospitalized in pediatric oncology to promote their well-being during hospitalization and facilitate their adaptation to the therapeutic process. The main goal of this preliminary study was to complete a descriptive assessment of the program implementation using Donabedian’s quality model. This study aims more specifically at documenting the observed connection between participating in the program, quality of care and satisfaction of participating parents and nurses.

A total of 16 parents of children and 12 nurses took part in the implementation study and composed the sample. Data were collected through two self-administered questionnaires intended for parents and one questionnaire for nurses. Evaluating the quality of the animal therapy program includes issues related to user profiles, animal therapy intervention process, organizational structure and client outcomes. It appears that dog-assisted therapy may contribute to alleviate psychological distress in children and parents, facilitate their adaptation to the therapeutic process, and promote their wellbeing while hospitalized. The goal of a second phase to the project will be to verify the effectiveness of the animal therapy intervention by targeting more specifically children hospitalized with solid tumours.


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