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Aromatherapy as an Intervention for Chemotherapy-Induced Nausea and Vomiting

New Knowledge, Innovations, and Improvements

Caterine Diaz, RN, BSN

Caring for oncology patients with kindness and compassion includes exploring interventions to mitigate the side effects of chemotherapy. For example, after attending a presentation about the use of aromatherapy to treat nausea and vomiting in post-operative patients at a Magnet Conference in late 2019, Caterine Diaz, RN, BSN, was curious to know whether current literature supported its use to treat nausea and vomiting in the oncology patient population. Though improved pharmacological agents have been introduced over the years, cancer patients still suffer from adverse physical side effects of chemotherapy that impact their quality of life.

Returning to Miami, energized to consider an aromatherapy intervention for oncology patients, Diaz sought guidance from Debbie Anglade, Ph.D., RN, MSN, LHRM, CPHQ, Assistant Professor of Clinical, and UMHC Nurse Research Scientist, on the process of undertaking an interventional research study. Diaz and Dr. Anglade met weekly to create and submit a proposal, guided by the Iowa Model for Research and Evidence-Based Practice, to the UMHC Nursing Research & Evidence-Based Practice Council. Following a thorough review of the literature, which yielded largely inconclusive results, the proposal defined an intervention to explore the impact of Aromatherapy inhalation on nausea and vomiting and anti-emetic use in patients receiving moderate to highly emetogenic chemotherapy regimens. The UMHC Nursing Research & Evidence-Based Practice Council approved the proposal.

A randomized controlled pilot study, which will enroll 150 patients will be conducted in the Center Treatment Units (CTU) at Sylvester Cancer Center. The experimental study group will receive aromatherapy inhalation therapy in conjunction with their prescribed chemotherapy treatment. The study will collect psychosocial variable data, including psychological distress symptoms (stress, anxiety, and depression), a resilience measure, and a pre-and post-intervention quality-of-life questionnaire. In addition, collected data will include the incidence of nausea and vomiting and the frequency of anti-emetic medication use. The study will commence following approval by the University of Miami Institutional Review Board (IRB). A grant application to the Oncology Nurses Foundation was submitted, and a vendor partner to provide the aromatherapy inhalers has been sought.

“I am grateful for the comprehensive support this non-pharmaceutical interventional study has received and look forward to my colleagues in the CTU participating in this nurse-led research study. As nurses, we continue to strive to improve our patient's experience and outcomes and continue to explore evidence-based holistic interventions to do so,” said Diaz.