“Keep the air within as pure as the air without” (Nightingale, 1859).
In a recent address at the 35th National Conference for the American Society of PeriAnesthesa Nurses, I shared my own commitment to natural solutions for health care. I was very encouraged to hear from so many nurses from around the country who share my passion for cleaning up health care. From my own passion for providing evidence for the use of essential oils, to the work that is being done to explore the impact of gases and chemicals used in our workplaces, and decreasing the necessity for pharmaceuticals - nurses are at work to decrease the toxic load in health care. I'm proud to be part of a profession that is paying attention to some of the unintended consequences of our current medical practices.
Mounting scientific evidence indicates that the human body is becoming a reservoir for the toxic chemicals found in the air, water, food, household products, and even in products commonly used in the provision of health care. Toxicologists are creating a steady stream of science regarding the human health threats posed by one’s exposure to chemicals, pollutants, and hazards such as mercury, polyvinyl chloride plastics (PVCs), dioxin, diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP), latex, glutaraldehyde, formaldehyde, pesticides, antineoplastic drugs, waste anesthetic gases, ionizing radiation, and lasers.
Since the early years of the profession, nursing leaders such as Florence Nightingale and Lillian Wald have recognized the role of nurses in controlling the influence of environmental factors (air and water quality, food, sanitation, cleanliness, chemicals, pesticides, waste products) on health. Nurses have long appreciated that a healthy environment impacts upon the health of individuals, families, communities, and populations. This knowledge is an underpinning of nursing practice as expressed by Florence Nightingale in her First Rule of Nursing: “Keep the air within as pure as the air without” (Nightingale, 1859).
Registered nurses regularly encounter diseases such as asthma, allergies, autoimmune conditions, emphysema, infertil- ity, Parkinson’s disease, cancer, heart disease, and physiological and psychological stress that are caused and/or exacerbated by environ- mental contaminants (ANA, 2003).
In 2003 the American Nurses Association implemented the Precautionary Principle.
Encourage nurses to gain a working understanding of the relationships between human health and environmental exposures and to integrate this knowledge into their practice. These principles are applicable in all settings where registered nurses practice and provide care and are intended to protect nurses themselves, patients and their families, other health care workers, and the community.
The current mode of thinking asks, “How much harm is allowable?” The precautionary approach asks us to consider instead, “How can we meet our goals in the least harmful way? How can we protect public health and the environment?” (ANA, 2003a). Nurses understand the need for prevention, early detection, monitoring, and reduction of stressors on people; the need to take preventative action, when possible; and the need to identify and reduce risks to patients and themselves even when full proof of cause and effect is not available.
While I am working toward providing evidence that will support the use of essential oils for health and wellness, I am personally and professionally convinced that we in fact, have sufficient evidence regarding the safety and efficacy of essential oils for health care.
We are all seeking to live a life that is in line with what our Creator intended. While that looks different for everyone, many tools have been provided for us in nature. Supporting a healthy body function is crucial to being able to carry out our mission. Essential oils and good nutrition are safe and effective methods for giving our bodies what we need to thrive, not just survive.
Next time you reach for a product to address a health or environmental issue in your home, ask yourself, instead of "How much harm is allowable?" , "How can we meet this goal in the least harmful way?" Then consider a more natural solution. Health and wellness begins at home.
I would love to hear your stories, your concerns! Comment below... and please contact me if you want to know more about those natural solutions for health care!
Click Here to see one example of the work being done to strengthen the evidence for essential oils in reducing stress.
Wellness Advocate, BSN,RN