Animal-assisted Intervention in the ICU

A Tool for Humanization

Megan M. Hosey; Janice Jaskulski; Stephen T. Wegener; Linda L. Chlan; Dale M. Needham


Crit Care. 2018;22(22) 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


The combination of an aging population and advances in critical care medicine is resulting in a growing number of survivors of critical illness.[1] Survivors' descriptions of their stay in an intensive care unit (ICU) are frequently filled with traumatic events, and include experiences of confusion, anxiety, sleeplessness, pain, and loneliness.[2,3] Sedative and anxiolytic medications administered to manage patient symptoms are associated with delirium and worse physical and mental health outcomes.[4] Therefore, there is growing interest in the use of non-pharmacologic interventions and in creating a more humanized environment in the ICU for patients and their families.[5] Such efforts have included a focus on understanding the critically ill patient as an individual and providing comprehensive medical, psychological, and rehabilitation care.[6–8] This publication aims to: 1) suggest a conceptual model for the use of non-pharmacologic interventions to reduce suffering and promote recovery in a more humanized ICU environment; 2) describe animal-assisted intervention (AAI) as an exemplar of a non-pharmacologic intervention and provide a conceptual model for the utility of this intervention; and 3) discuss the basic principles for introducing a non-pharmacologic intervention program in the ICU.