A relaxing RCT

You sign out to the overnight team at midnight and stay an hour or so completing a laceration repair and finishing your charts.  It's been a chaotic afternoon and evening and the patina of COVID-19 didn’t make things any better. After your shift (and appropriate decontamination) you pass your hospital’s new resiliency resource room.  You wonder, “What would be more relaxing right now? Doing some deliberative coloring, petting a dog, or just heading home?”


A randomized controlled trial evaluated deliberative coloring (think coloring for adults such as mandalas), pet therapy, or no intervention on the stress levels of emergency medicine physicians (both attendings and residents) as well as emergency medicine nurses.  Participants were brought to a separate room in the ED and asked to participate in their assigned activity for 5 minutes during the shift. A visual analog scale (VAS) of stress, a standardized stress scale, and salivary free cortisol were measured at the beginning of the shift (T1), 30-40 minutes after the intervention (T2, this was a break in the shift), and at the end of the shift (T3).  


Overall, both deliberative coloring and pet therapy reduced free salivary cortisol levels amongst ED staff.  Only pet therapy was associated with a change in the VAS at the end of the shift but was not associated with a self reported change in standardized stress scale.  Participants reported more engagement with pet therapy than deliberative coloring.  


So, at the end of your shift, once you’ve deconned and washed your hands, take a few minutes to pet a dog.  Clearly other studies are required for other types of pet therapy and you can count me in!


Reference: Kline JA, VanRyzin K, Davis JC, et al. Randomized Trial of Therapy Dogs Versus Deliberative Coloring (Art Therapy) to Reduce Stress in Emergency Medicine Providers. Mycyk MB, ed. Acad Emerg Med. 2020;39(Suppl 2):46. doi:10.1111/acem.13939.