This is a conversation between certified clinical aromatherapy practitioners Grace Orosz, RN-BC, CCAP and Barbara Jackson, M.Ed, LPN, CCAP who met in the Jane Buckle Clinical Aromatherapy Practitioner training course and have continued their friendship ever since. Grace and Barbara are two of the three aromatherapy instructors for the American Holistic Nurses (AHNA) Integrative Healing Arts Program. They are writing to share their reflections with the holistic nursing community.

This blog is not about how to use essential oils in the clinical setting; how to make our favorite blends, or the best way to deliver aromatic tools. While all that information is important and useful, we want to share about the energetics of aromatherapy here.

At this time in our COVID-19 world, we are all reflecting, pausing, and working hard at the edge of the invisible precipice. We experience the energy of those around us as fear, irrational behavior, annoyance, and grief but rarely as love or joy. We strive to maintain our integrity in demanding environments.

It is challenging to go to work, knowing you will be asked to work hard clinically. You will come home drained, knowing that although you can change your clothes and wipe down your shoes, you may not recognize the need to also clear the energy and tension that are attached to your body and spirit from the situations you encountered this day. You might even be too tired for the tears that could help wash away what you witnessed during your shift.

This Great Pause will continue as we perhaps resist and then embrace the places in ourselves that need additional work. We may wonder "How can we find the energy to be leaders in this time, in spite of a lifetime of learning and preparation?" As holistic nursing practitioners, we know that we can dig into our toolkit of experiences and training to be calm, resilient and present, radiating a subtle and secure energy for our colleagues and the patients in our care.

This is not a time of evangelizing or preaching, as much as it is a time of being grounded and generous. Both of us carry essential oil blends with us to work that we apply to our masks that and share with our co-workers. We find ways to hold each other up through this difficult time, providing care to all those in need, not just our patients.

Going in full COVID PPE to provide patient care, it’s comforting to have the intention of calm and its strengthening to have calm-producing scents to back it up. Many nurses besides the two of us have said that having an essential oil in their mask has helped them make it through their day, more able to tolerate the challenges of COVID.

For example, providing something aromatic for a nurse or CNA who is challenged with tolerating the distinctive smell of c. diff while providing a patient's peri-care helps her maintain her balance in that intimate encounter and shields her patient from the unspoken repulsion.

During this time, we have found efficacy in avoiding single essential oils that can be emotional triggers or readily identified. Instead, we are choosing blends that are calming, grounding, uplifting and anti-infective. This is a time for blends that include oils like lavender, bergamot, frankincense, sweet marjoram, atlas cedar and red mandarin.

Everything we use is diluted to a maximum of 2.5%, since the concentrated forms demand more dilution, not less. People are already on edge and frail, so robust, aggressive scents are to be avoided.

And even as we know that olfactory receptors are found throughout our body and that scent is associated with emotions, we are aware that we maintain a positive presence that lingers after we have left the room. The subtle shift that comes with reducing the autonomic nervous system response is enough of an intervention.

Aromatherapy and essential oils are important tools in our toolkit that allow us to shift the energy within ourselves in order to be secure and balanced when we step into the unknown of our working day. We appreciate that essential oils are used along with breath work and therapeutic touch to be, in the words of Gandhi, the change we wish to see in the world.

If you'd like to learn more about using essential oils in the clinical setting, check out Barbara's CE course for RNs, Directors of Nursing & Facility Administrators: Using Lavender Essential Oil in Clinical Nursing Settings.