Date of Conferral







Mary M. Martin


Knowledge deficits and unfavorable attitudes are commonly cited barriers that prevent adoption of animal-assisted interventions (AAIs). Nurse leaders’ (NLs’) knowledge of and attitudes toward AAIs have not been well documented in the literature. The purpose of this study was to identify NLs’ perspective on AAI, including their usage, knowledge, and attitudes. This information may be helpful in overcoming common barriers to AAI usage. The theory of transformational leadership guided this 3-manuscript dissertation study, which included 3 studies on NLs’ use of AAIs, the relationship between NLs’ knowledge of AAIs and NLs attitudes toward AAIs, and the potential impact of AAI program exposure on NLs’ knowledge and attitudes. An anonymous web-based survey was used to collect data for this quantitative study. Two hundred NLs participated in the study. Results showed that NLs utilize AAIs in patient care across a variety of healthcare settings and patient populations. NLs in settings where an active AAI program was in place had greater knowledge and more positive attitudes than NLs in settings with no AAI program (F = 12.281, p < 0.001). The relationship between NLs’ knowledge and their attitudes toward AAIs with dogs and towards the benefits of AAIs was weak (R square = 0.056, R square = 0.130 respectively). The significant impact of organizational exposure to AAIs and the weak relationship between AAI attitudes and AAI knowledge indicates that NLs’ may benefit from additional exposure to AAI programs and to peer-reviewed AAI research. Overcoming barriers and increasing access to AAIs may mitigate the effects of many common health and wellness problems such as pain, behavioral and cognitive disorders, isolation, stress, and anxiety.