The RCN protocol provides evidence-based best practice criteria so that hospitals and other health settings can introduce animals into the care environment.
By following it, services will be able to ensure the safety of patients and health care staff as well as the animals and their owners, while allowing patients to reap the benefits that interaction with animals can bring.
Publication of the protocol was prompted by an RCN survey last year which found that although the majority of respondents thought animals were hugely beneficial to patients, most nurses said animals were not allowed in their workplace.
The survey found that nine out of 10 nurses believe animals can help improve the health of patients with depression and other mental health problems with 60% of respondents also acknowledging that animals can help speed patient recovery.
Amanda Cheesley, RCN Professional Lead for Long-term Conditions and End-of-Life Care, said: “Anyone who’s worked in this area can see the amazing impact animals have on the health of adults and children alike.
“However there are so many myths around the dangers of having animals in health care settings that most organisations are too concerned to try it out.
“This protocol will help to dispel these fears by supporting hospitals to include animals in the care they deliver in a safe and professional way.
“We hope that it will encourage all health services to consider how animals can help their patients and help us to remove the taboo from what is a really remarkable area of care.”