1. Schafer, Deborah J. MSN, RNC, CNS

Article Content


To offer a program that uses animals to enhance the quality of life and improve the emotional well-being of the long-term antepartum patient.



Interactions with animals in healthcare settings have resulted in positive physical and psychological responses in patients. Numerous studies report effective reduction of loneliness and isolation in long-term patients, decreased stress and enhanced coping with stressful events, general improved psychological well-being, increased social interaction, and improved self-esteem.



Pregnancy is a time of anticipation, discovery, and physical and emotional adjustments. However, approximately 20% to 25% of pregnant women are diagnosed with complications that may threaten the safety or life of the mother or fetus. A complication diagnosis induces shock, fear, and feelings of being overwhelmed. High-risk pregnancy heralds increased stress and anxiety to the puerperal woman and family. Hospitalization heightens stress and has a significant psychosocial impact. The hospitalized pregnant woman demonstrates the degrees of powerlessness, loneliness, loss of control and autonomy, boredom, anxiety, and depression. The stress of separation from home compounds the complex reactions and often results in the feelings of guilt and low self-esteem. The CNS faces the challenge of improving the emotional well-being of the patient.



An animal-assisted activities/therapy (AAA/T) program was developed by the perinatal CNS for the long-term antepartum patient. The CNS collaborated with nursing, infection control, risk management, security, and volunteer services. Guidelines were developed that addressed the responsibilities of the AAA/T coordinator and animal/handler teams, and described the criteria for animal participation.



Data will be collected and analyzed to determine the impact of the program on patient and staff satisfaction and psychological well-being.



Interest from local certified therapy dog teams is high. Initial visits have begun. Evaluation data will be available for presentation.


Implications for Practice

The role of the CNS is integral to the management of the patient with complex needs. The CNS is responsible for integrating knowledge to design innovative, cost-effective programs that improve patient outcome. An AAA/T program is an example of a therapeutic intervention that utilizes the animal/human bond to maximize positive results.


Section Description

This year's annual NACNS conference is planned for Orlando, Fla, March 9-12, 2005. Over 300 clinical nurse specialists (CNSs) are expected to attend, and as with past conferences, attendees will also include graduate faculty from CNS programs, nurse administrators, and nurse researchers. The theme of the conference, CNS Leadership: Navigating the Healthcare Environment Toward Excellence, was selected to showcase the many ways CNSs acquire and disseminate knowledge and innovative practices in their specialty areas. Two preconference sessions are scheduled. One session, sponsored by NACNS Legislative/Regulatory Committee, targets information for CNSs interested in understanding the legislative/regulatory process as it deals with the practice of nursing, and will also help build skills CNSs need to engage in the process. The second session, sponsored by NACNS Education Committee, focuses on CNS education issues, and as with the education preconferences of past years, anticipates informative dialogue and much sharing among CNS educators around curriculum design, teaching strategies, and indicators of quality in the curriculum that link to the NACNS education standards to program review and excellence. The conference planning committee is proud and pleased to have Jeanette Ives Erickson, MS, RN, CNA, Senior Vice President for Patient Care Services and Chief Nurse Executive of Massachusetts General Hospital as the opening keynote speaker. She will begin the conference by highlighting the importance of CNS practice on patient safety. The planning committee is equally proud and pleased to have NACNS past-president Rhonda Scott, PhD, RN, Chief Nursing Officer of Grady Health System as the closing speaker. Dr Scott will challenge attendees to use the information from the conference to shape quality care delivered in a safe environment and to advance the profession of nursing through direct care to clients, influencing standards of care delivered by other nurses, and influencing the healthcare delivery system to be to support innovative, cost-effective, quality nursing care. A total of 64 abstracts for podium and poster presentations were selected in addition to graduate student posters. The abstracts address the 3 spheres of CNS practice with a strong emphasis on clinical practice improvements. As you will note from the abstracts published in this issue of the journal, specialty practice areas represented in the abstracts include children, adults, and gerontological patient groups; hospital, outpatient, and home care settings, and community health. In addition, a wide variety of specialty topics including smoking cessation programs, end-of-life care issues, and protocols outlining nursing approaches to improved diabetes, cardiovascular and ventilator management. A number of the abstracts described hospital and healthcare system level innovations that resulted from CNS practice. Collectively, these abstracts reflect the breadth, depth, and richness of CNS contributions to the well-being of individuals, families, groups, and communities. The following abstracts are from those presenters who elected to have their work published in the journal so those who are unable to attend this year's conference can share in the knowledge of the conference. As you read each abstract, consider the talent and clinical scholarship of your CNS colleagues who are advancing the practice of nursing and contributing to improved outcomes for patients and healthcare organizations. You may want to contact individual presenters to network, collaborate, consult, or share your own ideas about these topics. Watch for next year's call for abstracts and consider submitting an abstract for presentation at NACNS's next conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, March 15-18, 2006.