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  1. Roberts, Florence PhD, APRN, BC
  2. Bradberry, Judy PhD, RN, NCMT
  3. Williams, Cheryl LCSW, BCD


Baccalaureate nursing students who participated in equine-facilitated psychotherapy (EFP) clinical observation found that they could benefit as much from the program as the child clients. By identifying beneficial educational outcomes of this nontraditional learning assignment, the authors hope readers will explore similar possibilities for nurses at various stages of their professional development.


The baccalaureate nursing program at a small liberal arts university in the southeast contains several strands of content woven throughout the curriculum, including psychiatric/mental health nursing (PMHN). The students are introduced to such wellness concepts as anxiety and stress management, communication, spirituality, client education and methods to support behavior change, and family dynamics during the first of 4 semesters. Psychiatric illness and treatment content are combined with courses that cover traditional medical-surgical, pediatric, and maternity nursing. Medical-surgical faculty often assign clients who have a comorbidity of addiction, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or other psychiatric diagnoses in the acute care setting. Students also care for clients, including those with mental health issues, in community settings. Thus, students have many opportunities to experience the care of all clients holistically.


In their third semester, when students study pediatrics, they have classes on parenting and the most common childhood mental health/behavioral disorders. In addition to caring for children in acute care settings, they have community-based observations in agencies that deal with several aspects of child mental health, including a child welfare agency, schools, a juvenile detention facility, and an equine-facilitated psychotherapy (EFP) program for children with mental health and/or behavioral issues.