New pet therapy guidelines announced
Animal Assisted Therapy has proven to help alleviate a number of health issues among patients. Dogs have been known to relieve post traumatic stress disorder, horses have been able to decrease anxiety with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and dolphins have been able to help with speech and motor skills for children with mental and emotional handicaps.
Although, animals create a powerful bond by helping improve patients’ social, emotional, or cognitive function, the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA) says health care providers need to exercise caution when bringing animals into their sites.
“While there may be benefits to patient care, the role of animals in the spread of bacteria is not well understood,” said Dr. David Weber, lead author of the recommendations in a press release.
SHEA has announced new guidelines to protect patients. The recommended policies are published in Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology journal and include the following:
- Facilities should develop a written policy and designate a liaison for animal-assisted activity.
- Allow only dogs.
- Animals and handlers must be formally trained and evaluated.
- Infection Prevention and Control teams and clinical staff should be educated about the program.
- Animal handlers must have all required immunizations, prevent the animal from having contact with invasive devices and practice proper hygiene before and after contact.
- Hospitals should maintain a log of all animal-assisted activity visits.
- Must be compliant with the Federal Americans for Disability Act (ADA).
- Dialogue should be made with Infection Prevention and Control Team if an inpatient has a service animal.
- Health care providers or staff can only ask the patient or visitor to describe what work/tasks the dog performs.
Personal pet visitation
- No pets should be allowed to enter health care facilities.
- Exceptions can be made if the pet helps to benefit the patient, but only dogs should be allowed.
- The patient must perform hand hygiene immediately before and after contact with the animal.
“I don’t think that you will find an infection preventionist who doesn’t agree with these recommendations,” Skelton says. “SHEA made it practical and safe for both the patient and the animal while understanding the importance of pet therapy for patients.”
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