With the school year nearing its end, the partnership between stress and anxiety only strengthens as final exams approach. To help its students cope, the TTUHSC School of Nursing in Abilene recently hosted a group of special canines from community partner Hendrick Medical Center.
The effort, dubbed Study Paws, allowed students to interact with therapy dogs from the Hendrick Center for Rehabilitation. The four-legged visitors included Emma the poodle, Rocky the sheltie, Jody the black Labrador and several of their tail-wagging friends.
Future nurse Alyna Alvarez, a senior from Snyder who is seeking her bachelor’s degree, said the joy and relief she felt when interacting with the therapy dogs was, in a word, therapeutic. Because of Study Paws, she also better understands the role therapy dogs can play in health care.
“I feel therapy dogs can benefit patients and caregivers by allowing them to have an outlet and opportunity to destress and distract themselves from the hectic environments that may be present,” Alvarez said. “We all are exposed to situations and circumstances that elevate the amount of stress and anxiety, which can escalate to the point of exhaustion. This is especially true for patients who are already at a disadvantage due to recovery, healing or the exacerbation of an illness or disease.”
Alvarez said allowing patients and caregivers to free their minds and bodies from stress could produce positive outcomes that improve the overall quality of health. She believes therapy dogs can provide this freedom to patients who suffer from physical issues like illness and surgery or who deal with the emotional challenges posed by depression and anxiety.
“Relaxing yourself in a time of stress helps the body heal,” she emphasized. “Having a moment of silence from your own thoughts can be really relaxing and can prevent overthinking, which can in turn lead to exhaustion and stress. Prolonged exhaustion and stress serves no benefits to anybody’s health and well-being.”
Alvarez said she is grateful to TTUHSC and her Abilene nursing instructors for providing such an outlet for students during the most pressure-filled part of the school year.
“We are blessed to be a part of a campus that provides opportunities and activities with the hopes to better help us, not only academically, but emotionally as well. We are grateful and blessed beyond measure.”