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Pet Visitation for Patients – Agree or Disagree?

04/25/2013

Should a “Best Friend” be allowed to visit a patient in the hospital?

The policy at most hospitals does not allow for pet visitation.  However, a few medical institutions have taken a different approach and opened their doors to patients’ own dogs and cats letting them visit along with other family, children and friends.  To name a few, The University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore,  University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics in Iowa City, Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center in Richmond, Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, and two hospitals associated with the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, all allow family pets  to visit their owners, so long as certain requirements are met.

Policies vary among the institutions but many share some of the same requirements such as a doctor’s order, clearance from the veterinarian that the animal is healthy and up-to-date on shots, the animal must be groomed within a day of the visit and be on a leash when walking through the hospital. If the dog or cat wants to be with the patient on a bed, a covering must first be laid down. If the room is shared, the other patient must agree before a pet may visit.

Rush University Medical Center spent three years studying the issue before its new pet visitation policy went into effect. Diane Gallagher, the hospital’s Associate Vice President of Nursing Operations, described some of the questions: Would animals transmit infections to patients, or vice versa? What were the liability issues? Could allowing pets to visit interfere with patient care? In the end, officials decided that the benefits of comfort and reduced stress for patients were more substantial than the risks.

Research on the impact of patients health with pet visitation hasn’t been done, however one small 2010 study performed by researchers at Virginia Commonwealth’s Center for Human-Animal Interaction, found that both unfamiliar and familiar dogs provoked a relaxation response and reduction in blood pressure and levels of cortisol.

Would you agree that visitation from a beloved pet may help the overall well-being of a patient? In the situation of hospice and long term care facilities, should patients have the right to spend their final days with their beloved pets? Read more about this topic in an article titled, “When Best Friends Can Visit” posted by the New York Times. Comment below and let us know your thoughts…..

 

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