Catherine E. Johnson, Ph.D. Effect of Aromatherapy on Cognitive Test Anxiety Among Nursing Students

Nursing programs are designed to educate and transform adult learners to the professional nursing role. The process of educating them has become more complex and stressful because of advances in technology, patient demographics, national safety standards and high expectations in the classroom and clinical environments.

“I want my students to succeed,” says Nursing and Allied Health Professor Catherine E. Johnson. In the stressful learning environments of nursing students, Johnson was interested in their anxiety. Specifically, she wanted to research and assess ways to decrease their cognitive test anxiety.

Cognitive test anxiety had been researched, but there was a lack of scientific evidence to explain how students could manage their test anxiety. The majority of studies were limited to an assessment of test anxiety, without interventions.

While there are many essential oils, Johnson chose lemon oil as its primary chemical component, limonene, is known for its benefits with respect to cognitive function, attention levels, and memory. In addition, it has strong record of safety, is widely available, and affordable.

“I am very familiar with the benefits of aromatherapy and wanted to determine if its use could decrease nursing students’ test anxiety.”

“Fifteen minutes before the students arrived, lemon oil was placed in a diffuser in the classroom and diffused for the entire length of the test,”
says Johnson.

Johnson’s analysis of the control and experimental groups found that the use of diffused lemon oil did, indeed, decrease the level of cognitive test anxiety in the nursing students. So impressed

with the results, Johnson now makes lemon oil inhalers available to her students to allay stress during tests. She also has impressive knowledge about other essential oils and the benefits they individually provide.

“The essential oils used in aromatherapy have beneficial properties that enhance our mind, body, and spirit,” says Johnson. “Lemon oil is just one of many essential oils that can benefit us in many positive ways.”

Professor Johnson holds a B.S.N. from Keuka College, New York; an M.B.A. in Healthcare Management from Western New England University, Springfield, MA; an M.S.N. from American International College, Springfield, MA; and a Ph.D. from Capella University.