Purpose (what): Anxiety and stress are common perceptions in busy, chaotic healthcare settings. Innovative strategies to promote employee wellness are crucial to satisfaction, productivity, and retention. This study's purpose was to investigate the effects of diffused essential oils on staff's perceived stress.
Relevance/significance (why): Diffusion of essential oils may elevate mood, calm senses, increase alertness, and decrease anxiety in emotionally and physically demanding work environments. Although a normal response to stress, anxiety becomes problematic when constant. In today's healthcare settings, stress is a common, inherent environmental characteristic. As an innovative intervention, essential oil diffusion may reduce stress, support employee wellness and ultimately, boost employee satisfaction and care outcomes.
Strategy/implementation/methods (how): Effects of essential oil diffusion on perceived stress was examined during a 12-week IRB approved study. Participants who consented for the study included adult male and female employees of a high-volume walk-in clinic. Perceived stress scale (PSS) evaluated perceived stress before, during and after oil diffusion. A baseline PSS survey was completed prior to the intervention. Diffusion of citrus essential oils was then started; diffusion continued for 4 weeks. The second PSS was completed in the last week of this diffusion period. Diffusion was then discontinued for 2 weeks. At the end of this period, participants completed the final PSS.
Evaluation/outcomes/results (so what): Individual PSS scores range from 0 to 40 with scores of 14 or greater equating to moderate or higher perceived stress. Participant’s median perceived stress levels showed: baseline 20; during effusion 11; and post- effusion 14.5. Data analysis revealed a 45% reduction in perceived stress when baseline results were compared to responses collected during 4 weeks of citrus oil effusion equating a statistically significant finding (p = 0.015). Following diffusion discontinuation, perceived stress levels rose by 21% confirming residual effects of the intervention. Reduction in perceived stress levels may support employee satisfaction and enhance performance and productivity.
Conclusions/implications (and now): In today's demanding care environment, aromatherapy may support employee well-being by reducing stress perception. As a component of an employee wellness initiative, this intervention rendered no adverse effects, is cost effective and continues to be a sustainable, replicable, wellness innovation.