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For nurses, therapeutic inhaled essential oils (TIEO) provide a welcome solution; there is no need to get a doctor’s order, administer a pill, insert an IV or monitor for drug interactions. Because it is a designated nursing intervention and not a drug, essential oil inhalers can be stocked as a regular supply item that doesn’t need to be dispensed from the pharmacy. In addition, patients can administer it themselves whenever needed, decreasing the amount of time nurses are required at the bedside. TIEO has an outstanding safety profile that allows its use with patients of any age or medical condition. In fact, multiple studies have shown that therapeutic inhaled essential oils not only improve patient outcomes, they also significantly increase patients’ satisfaction with their care.
Born in an Operating Room…
New wellness brands are rarely conceived within a busy operating room. Soothing Scents was officially launched in 2004, but really started a few years before, when a nurse anesthetist from Maine was trying to figure out a way to lessen the discomfort of post-op nausea experienced by her hospital patients. That nurse anesthetist was Wendy Nichols (BSN, APRN, CRNA), founder of Soothing Scents Inc. DailyNurse had questions for Wendy about Soothing Scents’ flagship product, QueaseEASE, and how she developed it within her cottage industry, whether essential oils are gaining acceptance in hospitals, and the safety of essential oils.
DailyNurse: What causes nausea in the operating room?
WN: Nausea is a pretty big problem in anesthesia. So many things cause it in the perioperative environment, and it’s our job—along with the nursing staff—to relieve it. An age-old technique for nausea is inhaling the vapor of isopropyl alcohol. Unfortunately, patients have negative associations with the smell.
One night while using the alcohol vapor with a nauseated c-section patient, I had a sudden thought about essential oils. I knew they contained high amounts of natural alcohols, and obviously smelled significantly better than alcohol prep pads, so I figured they may be a more effective option.
DN: So that gave you the idea to create an alternative to the alcohol pads?
WN: So that night I went home to get a product that I was sure someone had, but couldn’t find anything. There were essential oil companies that bottled oils, and there were studies on the efficacy of essential oils in reducing nausea, but no one had combined the two, and no one had provided a delivery method that would pass the safety test of the medical sector. So, it became an obsession, something I researched extensively for months, after which I felt bold enough to start blending.
DN: How did you go about finding the right delivery and storage system?
WN: The original homemade QueaseEASE was made in round tins I bought from Amazon. I fashioned a round screen over a cotton pad that held the oil blend, separating the user from contacting the oils even in the early prototype days.
To make the product suitable for use in a healthcare environment, we did the following:
- Spent many months sourcing the purest, highest grade essential oils that provided gas chromatography and mass spectroscopy testing (GC/MS) to verify the constituent levels.
- Worked with container material specialists to design inhalers that were made from appropriate materials to prevent the essential oil vapor from diffusing through the walls of the container.
- Designed a variety of single-use containers that were leak-proof, provided low ambient aroma for the users’ immediate vicinity only, and prevented the user’s skin and eyes from contacting the essential oil at any time.
- Had the blends/inhalers tested by a microbiology lab to see if they supported any microbial growth; bacterial, fungal or viral. (They don’t). The hospital I worked at gave me the green light to use [QueaseEASE and other blends] with my patients.
After a few weeks, I couldn’t keep enough of the inhalers in the hospital, they had become so popular. So I asked my entrepreneur brother for advice, and he immediately got the product, and what I was trying to do. So, we met up in Idaho and agreed to start this little business together, and how we were going to go about it. And that’s how it all started.
DN: What’s been the response of the medical sector? Are they receptive to the idea of essential oil therapy?
WN: Surprisingly, the general attitude has been overwhelmingly positive. In fact, the most prevalent question we get is how quickly we can get it to the nurses.
Most nurses are familiar with positive attributes of essential oils for wellbeing, and that vapor inhalation is the safest and fastest route for the healthcare environment. But I have been surprised (and gratified) to see how easily and quickly QueaseEASE gained traction in venerable institutions like the Mayo Clinic. In fact, they were one of the earliest adopters of our product.
DN: You seem to feel a mission to educate people in the field of essential oil therapy…
WN: Essential oil therapy for the healthcare environment requires competency, just like any other patient intervention. For instance, nurses and other healthcare providers rely on evidence-based practice standards to ensure their patients’ safety. A key mission of ours is to promote and support studies and referenced educational material for hospital-based essential oil use, which we have proudly done since our inception.
Our latest initiative, in collaboration with the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), is a certified nurse competency course that provides up to date research and evidence-based practices for using therapeutic inhaled essential oils (TIEO) for nausea and anxiety in the healthcare environment. We are extremely proud of it and feel incredibly fortunate to be able to offer it free to our nursing colleagues.
At the ANCC Magnet conference in Orlando, I heard time and again, how important this course has been in ensuring acceptance of essential oil therapy use in hospitals.
DN: Are there any contraindications for using QueaseEASE and the other therapeutic inhaled essential oils? For instance, should patients with allergies exercise caution?
WN: The composition of essential oils, namely their lack of protein molecules, means there is very little chance they could cause a true allergic reaction. It is not impossible, however. The few allergic reactions that have been reported have almost all been skin-related. People that have a true allergy to any of the essential oils in Soothing Scents products should either exercise caution or refrain from using them.
For more details on Soothing Scents and therapeutic inhaled essential oils, visit the Soothing Scents website. To sign up for the Soothing Scents ANCC-accredited TIEO online training course, which is free for all RNs, visit here.