An acknowledged bond has existed between humans and animals throughout history. Therapeutic physical and psycho-social effects of these bonding relationships have been noted in health care settings. Professional nursing education is known to be one of the most demanding and stressful fields of study. Students begin to experience extreme stress early in their nursing education. An animal-assisted intervention with a therapy dog is an innovative and inexpensive action that can help decrease the stress, anxiety, and depression students experience in higher education.

The focus of this dissertation portfolio was an animal-assisted intervention with a nursing campus therapy dog. The initial pilot study results, included as Chapter Two, informed feasibility and identified research design modifications for continued investigation of the campus therapy dog’s effect. Chapter Three, a concept analysis of professional nursing student stress, provided a deeper understanding of the concept of interest. This concept served as the primary dependent variable during the dissertation research which investigated the effect of a campus therapy dog on professional nursing student stress. The primary research study, included as Chapter Four of this portfolio, used a mixed methods design. Quantitative data were collected using Cohen’s Perceived Stress Scale and a smart phone application. Qualitative results, generated by thematic analysis of an Introductory Level discussion forum and a one question nursing program graduate survey, explained the quantitative findings.

Date of publication

Fall 11-4-2019

Document Type




Persistent identifier


Committee members

Gloria Duke, Beth Mastel-Smith, Eric Stocks


Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing