Pet Companionship During the Cancer Journey Brings Comfort to the Patient Experience

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New Brunswick, N.J., April 1, 2022— Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey offer forms of pet therapy for cancer patients. Diane L. Haley, MSW, LCSW, OSW-C, director of Patient Experience at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey shares more about providing patient-centered care through interaction with furry friends.

What is pet therapy and why do we use it?

Pet therapy is a guided interaction between a person and a trained animal. It also involves the animal's handler. According to the American Cancer Society, a number of studies on the benefits of patients interacting with companion animals have shown that animals can help patients cope with having cancer by providing comfort and support. Such interaction also may help them cope better with their emotions.
Animals can help patients in the following ways:

  • Reduce signs and symptoms of anxiety disorders, major depression, or panic attacks, which are problems often experienced by people with cancer
  • Lower stress levels and improve mood
  • Encourage movement by walking or playing
  • Provide distraction in the oncology care environment
  • Provide comfort to people with cancer who are near the end of their life

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A Focus on Patient Experience

The patient experience encompasses the range of interactions that patients have with a health care entity. This includes encounters with doctors, nurses, and staff as well as aspects of health care delivery that patients value highly such as timeliness of care, ease of access to information, and positive communications with health care providers. With patients as our focus at Rutgers Cancer Institute, animal-assisted therapy supports a patient-centered care approach. Pet therapy helps patients feel connected and cared for in a supportive environment while staff and family members of patients also receive the mental and emotional benefits of being around animals.

Accessing Pet Therapy as a Patient

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Rutgers Cancer Institute is actively connecting with and recruiting organizations who offer therapy animals to visit patents and staff at the facility. Rutgers Cancer Institute also works with RWJBarnabas Health’s Prevention and Recovery’s Hope and Healing Program to provide patients with visits from furry four-legged friends including during Patient Experience Week. Rutgers Cancer Institute also has contact with an organization called Equine Time that provides patients with therapeutic time with horses. If you are a patient looking for a way to add pet therapy as a complement to your cancer treatment plan, it discuss it with any member of your cancer care team and learn more about other patient care programs and volunteer opportunities by visiting this page.


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