The Use of Inhaled Essential Oils to Decrease Pain, Anxiety, and Nausea in the Acute Care and Post-Operative Settings

The Use of Inhaled Essential Oils to Decrease Pain, Anxiety, and Nausea in the Acute Care and Post-Operative Settings


Name: Christina Backus

Rank: 2LT

Presenter/Poster: Presentation and Poster

Year: 2019


Description of the project: The purpose of this project was to improve patient care through decreased pain, anxiety, and nausea using non-pharmacological inhaled essential oils.

Objectives of the project: For medical-surgical and post-anesthesia care unit (PACU) adult patients, inhaled essential oils were offered as a primary or adjunct nursing intervention to decrease pain, anxiety, or nausea patient-reported scores in conjunction with the standard of practice, pharmacological means.

Background: The largest military treatment facility (MTF) provides care for approximately 26,300 inpatients and 15,000 surgical patients annually. Patients often suffer from undesirable symptoms such as pain, anxiety, and nausea as a result of their diagnosis or procedure. Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), such as aromatherapy, is a safe, low-cost, nonpharmacological option that promotes comfort, healing, and well-being. In healthcare settings, aromatherapy is the therapeutic use of plant-derived, inhaled essential oils to promote physical and psychological well-being and help alleviate some symptoms, such as pain, nausea, and anxiety.

This project directly aligns with two of the MTF’s strategic initiatives: providing high quality care and enhancing patient experience, as well as aligning with the Joint Commission requirement to offer non-pharmacological pain treatment modalities. By providing an additional integrative modality that increases comfort and decreases symptoms, patients are more likely to have an improved patient experience. 

Method of implementations: Essential Oil kits were stocked in the medication room. Nursing staff assessed the patient, provided patient education, and with patient permission, entered a “Nurse Initiated Order,” and documented in the electronic medical record. Patient demographics, diagnosis, unit usage of narcotics, anti-emetics, and anxiolytics, self-reported pre- and post- pain, nausea, or anxiety scores, and concurrent interventions were collected at baseline and over a two-month period.

Project Findings: Awaiting results. Will have by TSNRP conference.

Implications to military nursing: Offering aromatherapy empowers nursing staff to manage common discomforts in a nonpharmacological manner. Aromatherapy can be used to improve the patient’s experience in the medical-surgical and PACU settings.

The view(s) expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the official policy or position of Brooke Army Medical Center, the U.S. Army Medical Department, the U.S. Army Office of the Surgeon General, the Department of the Army, the Department of the Air Force or the Department of the U.S. Government.