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Healthcare is one of the most demanding professions, and approximately 45% of physicians experience job-related burnout (Dyrbye et al., 2018). While previous research has shown that working with facility dogs in hospitals may improve job satisfaction (Jensen et al., 2021), little research has been done on specific observed factors related to emotional wellbeing. The purpose of this study was to examine effects of working with facility dogs on emotions using ecological momentary assessment (EMA). One advantage of EMA over traditional assessments is the elimination of temporal bias, by asking participants about their current state rather than asking them to recollect something from weeks ago (Kashdan & Collins, 2010). EMA data was collected from a group of hospital personnel who worked with facility dogs (handlers; n=61) and a control group who did not (n=61). Multiple daily check-ins throughout a 2-week period included questions about what emotions they were feeling, rated on a scale from 1, “not at all,” to 7, “an extreme amount.” On average, each participant completed 27.6 daily check-ins. As per the Discrete Emotions Questionnaire, emotion scores were calculated as the average of four related items each. In a t-test comparison, we found no significant difference in anxiety scores between handlers and controls; however, sadness, relaxation, and happiness scores were all statistically significantly better in the handler group. These findings supported our hypothesis that facility dogs would have a positive effect on emotional states of hospital employees. Further directions may include studying specific attributes of facility dogs contributing to results in handlers.

Dyrbye, L. N., Burke, S. E., Hardeman, R. R., et al. (2018). Association of clinical specialty with symptoms of burnout and career choice regret among US resident physicians. JAMA, 320(11), 1114–1130. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.12615

Jensen, C. L., Bibbo, J., Rodriguez, K. E., & O’Haire, M. E. (2021). The effects of facility dogs on burnout, job‐related well‐being, and mental health in paediatric hospital professionals. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 30(9-10), 1429-1441. doi:10.1111/jocn.15694

Kashdan, T. B. & Collins, R. L. (2010). Social anxiety and the experience of positive emotion and anger in everyday life: An ecological momentary assessment approach. Anxiety, Stress, & Coping, 23(3), 259-272. doi:10.1080/10615800802641950