West J Nurs Res 2002 Johnson 713 5 1 Essay

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Western Journal of Nursing Research http://wjn.sagepub.com/ Human-Animal Interaction Research as an Area of Inquiry in Nursing
Rebecca A. Johnson
West J Nurs Res 2002 24: 713
DOI: 10.1177/019394502320555449
The online version of this article can be found at: http://wjn.sagepub.com/content/24/6/713 Published by: http://www.sagepublications.com On behalf of:

Midwest Nursing Research Society

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Western Journal of Nursing Research, 2002, 24(6), 713-715
Western Journal of Nursing Research
October 2002, Vol. 24, No. 6

Human-Animal Interaction Research as an Area of Inquiry in Nursing
Rebecca A. Johnson
“I who had had my heart full for hours, took advantage of an early moment of solitude, to cry in it very bitterly. Suddenly a little hairy head thrust itself from behind my pillow into my face, rubbing its ears and nose against me in a responsive agitation, and drying the tears as they came.” —Elizabeth Barrett
Browning in Exley (1993)

The propensity of animals to provide comfort, unconditional love, distraction, and joy and to promote human health is receiving attention through a growing body of research across disciplines. Nurses have employed animals in patient care beginning with the work of Florence Nightingale and have played a central role in empirically demonstrating the beneficial effects of human-animal interaction. Pioneering research by Baun, Bergstrom,
Langston, and Thoma (1984) showing the physiological effects of the human-animal bond provides a strong foundation for subsequent investigations aiming to delineate the range of care contexts, situations, patients, and dosages in which human-animal interaction may be a beneficial intervention. Toward this end, the collection of articles presented in this special issue explore new territory through either the populations on which they focus, the timing and method of introducing animals into various therapeutic settings, or both. For example, the Johnson and Meadows article describes demographic characteristics of older Latino pet owners, an as yet unstudied target population in this field of inquiry. Cohen’s study demonstrates the extent to which animals can be viewed as important members of a societal group (in this case, the family). Spence and Kaiser also consider the family in delineating a conceptual schema in which animals may play a facilitative role in
Rebecca A. Johnson, Ph.D., R.N., Associate Director for Research, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Missouri–Columbia.
DOI: 10.1177/019394502236644
© 2002 Sage Publications

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Western Journal of Nursing Research

family coping when a child has a chronic illness. Martin and Farnum also discuss children with chronic disorders. Their study demonstrates beneficial outcomes when children who have developmental disorders interact with a dog during therapy. Videotaping, an especially challenging but very helpful method of data collection is described. The article also gives the reader an idea of an effective “dosage” of this intervention.
Three other articles in the collection focus on nursing homes as settings where human-animal interaction may be beneficial. Kaiser, Spence,
McGavin, Struble, and Keilman demonstrate that a dog visitor may be just as well received as a human visitor among nursing home residents. McCabe,
Baun, Speich, and Agrawal show one type of beneficial response to humananimal interaction (decrease of disruptive…