Just add dogs. It turns out that’s a fairly easy recipe for taking a bit of the stress out of the room, one that Caitanya Min, Trad. ’13, of the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing (JHUSON) believes should be served every time exam season rolls around.
Her fellow students got a feel for what Min is talking about during a recent visit from Pets on Wheels, an all-volunteer organization that brings “therapy dogs” to wherever they’re needed most.
Min organized the visit by Pets on Wheels to introduce fellow nursing leaders-to-be (and anyone else who dropped by) to the soothing nature of the beasts. Along for the ride were two golden retrievers—Jillian and Nala--who were part of the healing process in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Newtown, Mass. “Animals, especially dogs, are known for their unconditional love, and something about them just makes people so happy,” says Min, herself in test mode just a couple of weeks from graduation. “They are amazing creatures. They're known as ‘man's best friend’ for a reason.”
Before the event at JHUSON, Min presented members of the Integrative Health Student Interest Group with a study done on the benefits of animal-assisted therapy with nursing students and test taking. Then, the proof walked in the door. She wasn’t surprised at what happened next. “During my summer break in 2012, I was doing an internship at Glide Health Services, an FQHC [federally qualified health center] in San Francisco,” Min says. “One of the programs I was in charge of was called SF Empower, a program that empowers mentally ill people with pre-diabetes/diabetes by providing educational classes, workshops, etc. I knew through research that pets can help with mental disorders such as depression or anxiety, so I called around and arranged a presentation through the San Francisco SPCA. The attendees were smiling and laughing and joking, and spirits were quite high by the end.”
It was no different for the Integrative Health Student Interest Group, which Min chaired for two years. “I believe everyone felt some relaxation, ease, and joy out of this event,” she says. “I can say that I witnessed a lot of smiles and laughing and delight with the four dogs there.”
And the animals?
“The dogs truly love their jobs,” says Vicki Rummel, executive director of Pets on Wheels.