Lessons in Lavender and Leadership
“Patients in the hospital are often under a lot of stress,” says Marilen. “Certain scents can enhance a feeling of calm, reduce anxiety and in turn improve outcomes.”
She adds, “It’s also a familiar healing approach for many of my patients, who have been exposed to the benefits of aromatherapy because of their unique cultural backgrounds.”
Marilen says her own diverse background inspired her to create the aromatherapy program. “I grew up using aromatherapy. My aunts in the Philippines would boil certain leaves when my mom suffered migraines. And my mother would give me citrus fruits to smell when I got carsick.”
Marilen created the unique program last year while at Sutter Health’s California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC) in San Francisco. Her program was the centerpiece of a study the hospital conducted to determine how aromatherapy could improve patient satisfaction and overall experience. It was so successful there; she hopes to import the program to CPMC’s St. Luke’s campus, where she’s now the interim supervisor of nurses in the telemetry, medical-surgical, and intensive care units.
Journey to Nursing
Growing up in her native Philippines and then Dubai before moving to the San Francisco Bay Area, Marilen always admired the work of her aunts — all nurses. Although she wanted to follow in their footsteps, Marilen’s journey to nursing took a slight detour.
“Believe it or not, I was squeamish about blood,” she laughs. So after earning a degree in psychology she worked in the world of finance.
But as Marilen watched her parents get older, she realized that the need for high-quality medical caregivers would grow. So she banished her fears and entered a masters nursing program with an emphasis in health care systems leadership.
“My parents believe strongly in education and compassion for others,” Marilen says. “I want to pass along those same values to my teams. When nurses are supported and encouraged, they see the bigger picture and begin to really ‘own’ their unit. This results in a better working environment for nurses and better patient care.”
Marilen says her deep-rooted values also created a foundation for her professional success. “I have been able to move into leadership because I’m always looking for ways to continue my education. My supervisors at CPMC also have confidence in me and help me find these opportunities,” Marilen says.
In fact, her aromatherapy program was her final project for the Leadership Residency Program, a one-year paid leadership development program sponsored by Sutter Health. “I was amazed and grateful to be selected by my Chief Nursing Officer to take part in the LRP,” Marlien says. “I’m also thankful to work for a hospital and health system that supports its employees with such wonderful opportunities.”
Future Smells Sweet
Marilen’s dreams for her future are as strong as the lavender oil in her aromatherapy program. “I hope to become a chief nursing officer someday,” she says. “I also hope to teach student nurses and honor my aunts by mentoring my younger cousins who have gone into nursing.”
“I’ve found a great place to work and see myself staying here a long time so that I can give back,” she adds,” “I want nurses to be happy where they work.”