Integrative Medicine: Essential Oils in Hospitals
By Caryn Gehlmann
For over a decade, I’ve been privileged to get to know many nurses here in Southern Oregon and around the country. Our e3 team of Clinical Aromatherapists and healthcare professionals love to partner with nurses who are looking for a way to use essential oils in hospitals to enhance patient care.
A lot has changed in the last decade as integrative medicine is gaining more traction! A recent issue of the Mayo Clinic’s magazine says, “The idea behind integrative medicine is not to replace conventional medicine, but to find ways to complement existing treatments.” Aromatherapy in hospitals is part of this movement and more and more nurses tell us they’ve found that essential oils complement their patient care and as a side benefit helps them personally deal with on-the-job stress. They say that using essential oils in hospitals promotes:
- An environment of well-being and comfort
- Enhanced patient satisfaction in their level of care
- Symptom relief for patients with nausea and pain
- Emotional support for patients who are depressed or anxious
- Less unpleasant “medical” odors for patients, staff, and visitors
- Stress relief for staff because “Happy Staff – Happy Patients”
How can you safely introduce essential oils in hospitals or other medical settings?
Some nurses want to use essential oils in patient care but they don’t know where to begin. There are many important considerations, and with our training and background in clinical aromatherapy, safety is our paramount concern. It’s important to remember that each facility is unique so you must tailor policies and procedures that best fit your culture. Here are three tips that will serve as a general outline to help nurses, or other healthcare practitioners, get off to the right start.
1. Work with (or work to create) standardized policies and procedures on the appropriate use of aromatherapy within your hospital or medical facility.
Each essential oil requires a separate protocol specifying the recommended level of dilution, the dosage, and the application method. It also requires that the patient’s health history, current conditions, prescriptions, etc. are taken into consideration. Having well-documented protocols empower nurses to make knowledgeable decisions on the use of essential oils for each patient. So do some homework and find out if your facility has policies and procedures in place. If they don’t have an aromatherapy program, please contact us for our help in establishing policies and procedures.
2. Choose the right essential oils and appropriate safe application modalites that will increase patient satisfaction and complement your hospital’s CAM services.
As a healthcare professional, you need to begin by ensuring you “do no harm” by using only certified, therapeutic-quality essential oils in your hospital or medical facility. The next step is to identify specific concerns, for both patients and staff, that can be enhanced by aromatherapy. For example, if nausea is a common concern, a hospital may choose to use ginger and/or peppermint essential oils to minimize symptoms. (Please see Specific Recommendations for our list of essential oils and blends most commonly used by nurses, hospitals and hospices.)
3. Get educated – understand safe application methods as defined by your facility’s aromatherapy Policies and Procedures.
There is a great deal of misinformation circulating on the internet regarding the use of essential oils that is both unnecessary and unsafe. Therefore, it is extremely important that you do your research so you know which essential oils are safe to use, understand the chemistry of these essential oils, and know how to administer them in a safe manner. (A great starting point is my podcast with Jon Stewart of Aromaculture on Clinical Aromatherapy in a Medical Setting.)
Whether you want to introduce essential oils into your hospital patient care routine, or you’re looking to implement a personalized aromatherapy service for your clients, or you have a simple question about a particular essential oil for personal use, we’re here to help you find answers. There’s no such thing as a dumb question! Contact us to set-up a consultation or share your comments and questions on Facebook.