Aromatherapy patches potential for healthcare worker stress management

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Aromatherapy may reduce nurses and healthcare workers on-the-job feelings of stress, anxiety, exhaustion, and being overwhelmed, according to a new study published in the International Journal of Professional Holistic Aromatherapy.

In an eight-week study, researchers from the West Virginia University School of Nursing provided aromatherapy patches to 19 nurses who worked at the infusion center of the West Virginia University Cancer Institute. The nurses affixed the patches to the badges they wore on lanyards around their necks. The patches were infused with a citrusy blend of essential oils, including lemon, orange, mandarin, pink grapefruit, lemongrass, lime, and peppermint.

The nurse participants wore aromatherapy patches on their ID badges for four-to-eight-hour stretches, on eight separate occasions, while working at the infusion center. Before and after wearing the patch each time, study participants completed a survey about their moods. They reported how strong certain emotions were, on a scale of one to 10.

The researchers found that participants felt significantly less stressed, anxious, fatigued, and overwhelmed after wearing the aromatherapy patches. The levels of anxiety and fatigue they reported fell by 40 percent, and their stress levels and feelings of being overwhelmed decreased by half.

"If we can improve our nurses' emotional reserves and give them more resiliency by using aromatherapy,” said Marian Reven, PhD student and lead author of the study, “give them a place to step back, to do some mindfulness, we're doing a good thing at the other end of it by improving patient care.”