One of the studies Halm reviewed, for instance, found an immediate reduction in respiratory rate during and immediately after aromatherapy treatment, but two hours after the treatment occurred there was no discernable effect (Halm 2008). This suggests that the commercial applications of aromatherapy, which tend to be long-term environmental applications rather than time- and person-specific treatments. Because the evidence shows that the calming effects of aromatherapy are really only present during the treatment and immediately after, long-term environmental applications of aromatherapy might be best.
There are problems with such an application in a medical setting, however. Chief among these is the entirely subjective nature of the sense of smell. Certain aromas which might be very pleasant -- and therefore presumably stress reducing -- for some might be particularly unpleasant for others. For these latter people, who do not enjoy a particular given aroma, stress might actually be increased by the constant and pervasive presence of the un-enjoyable scent. There is no scent that is universally liked, nor have enough studies been conducted comparing the effects of various aromas against others to reasonably promote the efficacy of this suggested therapy. Still, if a relatively mild scent could be found that was pleasing to the majority of patients and medical practitioners alike, then the pervasive environmental use of aromatherapy might prove to be enormously effective in reducing stress and anxiety levels of both patients and staff in a given institution, which in turn will greatly enhance the quality of care and speed of recovery. In settings where private or semi-private rooms are available, this application could be enhanced by using different patient-selected aromas, perhaps on a changing basis. Though the efficacy of such pervasive and long-term aromatic treatment has yet to be determined though research, the current research suggests that it could be highly effective, especially with the known temporary nature of aromatherapy effects.
This environmentally pervasive use of aromatherapy could also be used in nurse stations and break areas to reduce stress between patient interactions. As Cooke notes, the main stressors that nurses and other medical staff list are workload and patient demand (Cooke et al. 2007). Both researchers also note the almost immediate effects of aromatherapy in reducing stress (Halm 2008; Cooke et al. 2007). Thus, if nurses and other medical staff had a place to retreat, as it were, from these issues if only for a few moments to a place pervaded by an aromatherapy scent, the relaxation and rejuvenation given by such breaks might be much more effective in reducing stress than a simple break alone. Relaxation is, ostensibly, the primary reason for breaks in all kinds of employment, it being largely recognized that such periods of relaxation and stress reduction actually increase productivity in non-break times. If aromatherapy could increase these benefits in nurses and other medical staff, their treatment of patients might become more effective, and their patient relationships less strained.
Reduction of stress in nurses and medical staff will have a direct and casually and consciously observable effect on the treatment of patients. Speech and action both tend to be abbreviated during periods of stress, which can and most likely will have a direct effect on the way that patients perceive the quality of care they are receiving. This in turn will have an effect on the patient's stress level; if they feel that they are receiving a less-than-adequate level of care, their stress level is likely to rise, negatively impacting their recovery. On the other hand, if the nurses and medical staff are less stressed, this will also be communicated to the patient, and might have the opposite effect of improving patient attitude and enhancing their recovery.
Stress can be communicated subconsciously, too, perhaps to an even greater degree in subtle situations than the overt and conscious communications presented by alterations in observable attitude and action. This fact can only enhance the positive effects of the above suggestions of an available environmentally pervasive aromatherapy break room. Calmer people tend to help calm other people; if the nurses and medical staff are calm and less stressed, this will be unconsciously communicated to the patients as well, reducing their stress levels. Thus, it can be seen that pervasive aromatherapy might be even more efficacious in the treatment of patient stress and anxiety when provided to nurses instead of or in addition to the patients themselves.
All of this talk of environmentally pervasive aromatherapy is not to suggest that direct and patient-specific applications of aromatherapy not be utilized. The evidence clearly shows that such applications can be remarkable efficacious in the short-term as a stress reduction technique for patients and medical staff alike, even going so far as to reduce respiratory rates (Halm 2008). The evidence that aromatherapy can actually reduce levels of pain in critically ill patients has yet to be verified, but this is another avenue of aromatherapy application the merits further research (Halm 2008). In fact, aromatherapy in general is underutilized in this country, and the reports studied herein suggest that these practices should be changes if for no other reason than it will at…