Applications of animal assisted interventions in an acute hospital setting: Bringing joy at difficult times

Ms Erica Stevenson

1Royal Hobart Hospital, Hobart, Australia

This paper will highlight the relevance and uniqueness fostered within the human-animal bond and how that connection can be used as a powerful tool for diversional therapy interventions. Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT), Animal Assisted Activities (AAA) and Personal Pet Visitation (PPV) will be discussed focusing on our longstanding program at the Royal Hobart Hospital (RHH). The RHH is becoming progressively busier and admission times are short. As a result it is more difficult to find interventions that support, challenge and enhance the psychological, spiritual, social, emotional and physical wellbeing of patients. For some patients and their families their time in hospital can be daunting and over-stimulating. They may experience both physical and emotional challenges through their medical care and the decisions they are required to make especially around residential placement. Animal Assisted intervention creates a sense of trust, empathy and understanding therefore providing the opportunity to gain insight into the patients’ needs and interests.  The benefits of using AAT within a hospital for patients, family and staff will be discussed along with the benefits for the relevant Diversional Therapist. Considerations and limitations of implementing a programme within a hospital will be identified. Two case studies will show how the AAT programme at the RHH has effectively met the needs of individuals.


Erica Stevenson is a Diversional Therapy Assistant at the Royal Hobart Hospital. In 2016 she graduated from Charles Sturt University in a Bachelor of Health Science (Leisure and Health). She has been coordinating and implementing the animal assisted therapy program, hospital wide, for nearly 20 years.

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