Have you skipped over the question “Do you use tobacco?” or “Are you ready to quit smoking?” in completing your H&P or your routine assessment? The patient may smell like smoke, answering the question as soon you enter the room. You may have other priorities to address, like the reason they are seeing you. You are short on time. You feel like you are prying. The patient gets annoyed and frustrated when you ask. The list goes on. For some reason, educating and advising your patient to quit smoking can be harder than giving an enema!
I admit to skipping these questions with patients. A big one for me at my previous job was the Sexual History Assessment section on the admission questionnaire. After one patient berated me for asking such questions that were “insulting” and “none of my business,” I vowed to never ask those questions again. What I realize now is that I should have let his comments open a dialogue about why that information is important. He was going to be receiving a stem cell transplant, and a sexual history provided valuable information about his risks for infection, as well as psychosocial needs. Not only was I doing him a disservice by avoiding these questions, but I could have put him at greater risks during the course of his treatment.
Obtaining a smoking status, and helping your patient quit smoking is a huge piece of the patient’s overall health picture. Research shows that if providers don’t address the need to quit smoking, then patients feel validated that it is not a health priority. With nurses consistently ranked as the most trusted profession, it is imperative that we address the need to quit smoking, and help our patients along the course to quitting. There’s a reason why quitting smoking is the most important decision a person can do to improve his or her health. And as nurses, it is our duty to ask that simple but loaded question, “Are you currently smoking?” and if so, “Are you ready to quit smoking today?”
NOEP has no-cost online CE on how to help patients quit tobacco. Every Nurse’s Guide to Tobacco Cessation, authored by Sandra Villalaz, MPH, RN, CHES, is accredited for 1.22 contact hours. Regardless of your role or field of practice, you can impact tobacco use and its deadly consequences.
—By Carol Cannon, BSN, RN, OCN