Mounting exam stress was eased, if only temporarily, for Georgia Regents University students Thursday when two therapy dogs entered the classroom.
“It’s nice to have a break,” said Lael Reinstatler, a second-year medical student at Medical College of Georgia at GRU. “They’re beautiful and it’s a great idea because everyone loves dogs.”
Reinstatler, who serves as class president, pushed to get the dogs to visit as they prepare to take Step 1 of the United States Medical Licensing Examination. The score from Step 1, which tests second-year students’ knowledge of science in medicine, will determine whether the student can advance into clinical clerkships in the third year.
Although the test won’t be administered until June, Reinstatler said medical students are already preparing, and by May most will be following a 14-hour study schedule.
Tag, an Australian shepherd, and Slider, a boxer, were the center of attention as soon as they entered the classroom. Smiling students turned from their books and took turns crouching next to the dogs to pet them and rub behind their ears.
It was just one stop for the therapy dogs, who travel across the Augusta area giving comfort and relieving stress.
The dogs from Jae-Mar-S Academy of Dog Obedience are members of Therapy Dogs Inc., and spend their days visiting nursing homes, the Children’s Hospital of Georgia, Walton Rehabilitation Health System, Fort Gordon, the Active Duty Rehabilitation Unit at the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center, schools and other places. As part of the Read to Rover program, children can read aloud to the visiting dogs.
Diane Turnbull, an associate professor and director of Phase 2 curriculum at GRU, said Thursday’s visit was important for stress relief but it also opened the students’ eyes to alternate forms of healing.
“It gives them ideas into other things that can be beneficial to their patients,” she said. “There are other things besides drugs that can improve health and well-being.”