Dogs, mini-horses, cockatoos, Oh my!

A photographer/reporter from Channel 41 visited class interviewing students and the intructor and, of course, filming Sweetpea.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (July 12, 2014) - Animals are funny, intuitive and responsive. They love unconditionally and don’t talk back. These are a few of the many reasons Assistant Professor Sharon White-Lewis, M.S.N, R.N. decided to teach a summer elective course at Saint Luke’s College, “Animals in Healthcare.”

This is the only class in the region introducing nursing students to the therapeutic value of having animals in healthcare settings. Course topics include principles of infection control, the benefits of animals in disaster relief missions, zoonotic disease prevention, and how animals can help with nursing interventions. The class included visits from several different animals including cockatoos, dogs, and the miniature horse, Sweetpea.

Class requirements include animal/human interaction observations at the Deanna Rose farmstead, Pet Partners of Kansas City, and inner city schools to see the effects the mini-horses have on the children. Students also visited White-Lewis’s ranch where she has horses, dogs, and cats.

Nicole Lindsay, a second semester senior, explained that she was really excited about the observations required for the class, and to learn how people react to animals and what it does to their mood.

“Animal therapy is a very unexplored topic,” said Nicole. “There are a lot of benefits patients can get if more research was done, and it was more utilized.”

Jennifer Collier, also a second semester senior, feels that taking the animals in healthcare elective will give her some background knowledge of animals and their effects in therapy. She explained that she wants to be able to think outside the box and not always resort to using medication, “I want to use a more natural procedure to treat patients.”

Beth Armstrong, RN was one of the several guest speakers and brought her white cockatoo named Angel.  “Cockatoos have the intelligence of a three year old,” Beth explained.

She has rescued about 30 cockatoos and kept 12 of them because of the special bond she created with them. Armstrong told the class that she heard about bird rescues by joining the pet bird club.

“I have one bird that mimic’s the dog’s bark and in my voice says, ‘Come here Roscoe!’ and laughs hysterically when the dog comes running,”

The positive effect of animals in healthcare is White-Lewis’s passion, “I am working on my Ph.D. in nursing and doing my dissertation on the topic of equine therapy.”

“Equine Assisted Therapy is a new area of nursing that employs horses as an intervention to help patients with varying medical issues. The current uses include Hippotherapy which has traditionally been used to help children with Cerebral Palsy resulting in some children who can now walk. Horses are being used for over 30 therapies including seeing-eye horses (yes they can travel on airplanes), lymphedema treatment, speech therapy, substance abuse and many others. They are also used to teach leadership and ‘nurse presence.’ The human-equine bond has been documented to improve self-esteem, self- confidence and wellbeing,” explains White-Lewis.

 “Animals make miracles happen,” she said.

Class members: 
Jenette LaVecchia
Nichole Lindsay
Elizabeth Payne
Shamille Mack
Mandi Daniel
Kori McGinnis
Kathryn Wilkerson
Jessica Chao
Jennifer Young
Jennifer Collier
Elizabeth Rhodes
Heather Friday
Delores Raymer
Chare Heide
Amanda Hepker

For more information:
Amber Lauenstein, Second Semester Junior
Saint Luke’s College
624 Westport Road
KC, Mo. 64111