An Exploration of the Use of Canines in the Classroom to Reduce Dpt Student Anxiety
Purpose: The purpose of this project is to: • Explore current use of canine-assisted interventions to decrease self-perceived stress and anxiety levels in DPT students • Present student reported data on the availability of canines in the classroom • Describe acquired data of respondents in terms of regional location, rural versus urban settings, and most recent incoming DPT class size. Description: DPT students have been noted to have higher stress levels than their age-matched peers regardless of academic performance.1 Research has shown that dog-assisted interventions can be helpful in reducing self-perceived stress in undergraduate students.2,3,4 These same interventions could potentially be useful for PT students to reduce anxiety during highly stressful periods of testing. Additionally, pet therapy programs have been shown to be safe and effective when implemented with care in healthcare settings.5,6 As the current use of dog interventions in DPT programs is unclear, we conducted an informal online survey to assess the availability of therapy dogs in DPT programs by region, rural and urban settings, and incoming class size. Summary of Use: An informal survey was posted on the Facebook group “Doctor of Physical Therapy Students” page asking about exposure to therapy dogs while in PT school. From the 62 self-identified current or former students, a sample of 57 different programs was identified. This represents 22.5% of all 253 CAPTE accredited DPT programs.7 Students from 38 of the 57 programs (66.6%) reported the availability of therapy dogs a minimum of once per semester during their time in PT school. Forty-seven percent of the programs that reported access to dogs were located in the southern region of the US.8 Additionally, 81.5% of programs with access to therapy dogs were located in an urban area (greater than 50,000 people).9 Average incoming class size of programs with access to dogs was 46, while the average for those identifying no access to dogs was 36.7 Further research, including a survey of DPT program directors, is warranted. Importance to Members: Continued efforts to assist DPT students in anxiety management is important. Ninety-two percent of students responded that therapy dogs should be available in PT schools to alleviate stress and help with anxiety. Future research in the use of canine-assisted interventions in DPT schools could help to identify outcomes as well as any obstacles encountered with program implementation.