Nursing Students at SRTC Benefit from On-Site Animal Assisted Therapy

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A recent collaboration between the Veterinary Technology program and the Associate of Science in Nursing program at Southern Regional Technical College (SRTC) yielded incredible results. The project, a brainchild of SRTC Veterinary Technology instructor Sharon Poitevint, was so popular with participants there is potential for it to become a staple on the Thomasville, GA campus.

According to the Mayo Clinic, Pet therapy is a broad term that includes animal-assisted therapy and other animal-assisted activities. Animal-assisted therapy is a growing field that uses dogs or other animals to help people recover from or better cope with health problems, such as heart disease, cancer and mental health disorders. Animal-assisted activities, on the other hand, have a more general purpose, such as providing comfort and enjoyment for nursing home residents, or in this case, reducing stress levels before a major examination.

So how does it work? Imagine you’re preparing for a test, job interview, or some other form of high-stress situation. Prior to engaging in that particular activity you sit and interact with an assistance dog for 10 to 15 minutes; petting, playing, and asking the handler questions. Post-visit you realize you’re smiling, you’re a bit more optimistic, and your stress levels have been reduced. Simple enough, right?

“Originally, we thought this would be a great chance for a few dogs to possibly find their forever home and for some stressed out nursing students to relax for a few minutes before taking a major test. The day before the event Vet Tech students bathed the dogs, trimmed their nails, cleaned their ears, and sprayed them with doggy perfume. Then, the morning of the event, my students arrived as early as 7:00AM to be in the courtyard with a dog so any nursing student coming into the building could greeted,” commented Poitevint.

If you’re not sold on the benefits of pet therapy, SRTC nursing instructor Terry Harper says skeptics should take note.

“The nursing students were really involved with the dogs and vice-versa. It was obvious that the interaction was incredibly genuine and students thoroughly enjoyed their time with the dogs. To me, this interaction had a tremendous positive effect on the students before the exam. I saw an approximate 10 point increase in the students test grades on this course material after their pet therapy session in relation to previous classes. This experience has entirely changed my thoughts on pre-examination relaxation techniques. I would love for our students to have this opportunity every semester,” commented Terry Harper, RN, MSN, Associate of Science Nursing Faculty.

In addition to offering pet therapy to nursing students on their rigorous test days, the SRTC Veterinary Technology department would like to expand the opportunity to other programs around campus if positive results continue.

“Some may wonder how this activity benefits the veterinary technology students, and it is truly a multi-dimensional learning experience for them. They are able to practice their pet hygiene and communication skills while promoting their program and being active on our campus. In the future we hope to open this event to any program on campus that would be interested. I am incredibly excited that Mrs. Harper experienced measurable improvement in the test grades. For me, this further iterates the adage that ‘dogs can change our lives!’” Poitevint continued.

SRTC offers over 148 degree, diploma, and certificate programs that are designed to get you quickly into your desired career, and 27 general education courses that transfer to the University System of Georgia institutions and 19 private colleges and universities in Georgia. SRTC has instructional sites located in Ashburn, Cairo, Camilla, Moultrie, Thomasville, Tifton, and Sylvester for the convenience of our students. The College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). SACSCOC is the regional body for the accreditation of degree-granting higher education institutions in the Southern states. For the most up-to-date information on registration, class dates, and program offerings, log on to www.southernregional.edu or call (888) 205 – 3449.

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