Nurses receive new tool to help patients quit smoking


Pocket guide designed to put dent in 440,000 smoking-related deaths per year

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) unveiled a new clinical tool on May 10th designed to help nurses help their patients stop smoking.

Called Helping Smokers Quit: A Guide for Nurses, the pocket guide encourages nurses to follow the Five A's to cessation intervention: Ask, Advise, Assess, Assist and Arrange. The booklet features a table of U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved medications for smoking cessation, online resources for nurses ( and a new toll-free national hotline (1-800-QUIT-NOW) for smokers wanting to quit.

The DHHS' Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality jointly developed the guide with Tobacco-Free Nurses, a national initiative funded by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The project aims to enlist the aid of the country's 2.2 million practicing nurses in helping people give up smoking.

"Research shows that nurses are very effective at helping people to stop smoking. Because of their sheer numbers and public trust, nurses are in a unique position to help patients end their tobacco use," explained Linda Sarna, R.N., D.N.Sc, principal investigator for Tobacco-Free Nurses and a professor at the UCLA School of Nursing.

"The new pocket guide will provide nurses with the information and tools they need to realize their potential as smoking cessation advocates," she added. "If each U.S. nurse helps just one person quit smoking per year, they could triple the current U.S. cessation rate."

Smoking causes more than 440,000 deaths in the United States per year. Seventy percent of adult smokers express a desire to stop, yet research shows that only half of all smokers who see a health care professional are encouraged during the visit to quit.

"As the largest group of healthcare providers, nurses work in a variety of settings and have tremendous opportunities to help implement tobacco-cessation strategies," said Dr. Carolyn Clancy, director of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) has collected data since 2002 on whether hospitals offer smoking cessation advice or counseling to patients diagnosed with heart attack, heart failure or pneumonia. Hospitals' compliance with the measure varies widely, however, the data consistently attributed a nurse's involvement to hospitals that performed well on this criterion.

"Hospitalization offers an important 'teachable moment' and quitting opportunity and may make the difference between a patient's cessation success and failure," said Sarna.

Partners in the Tobacco Free Nurses Initiative include the American Nurses Association, American Nurses Foundation, American Association of Colleges of Nursing, National Coalition of Ethnic Minority Nurse Associations and the UCLA Smoking Cessation Leadership Center.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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