St. Michael’s nurse helps patients butt out

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St. Michael’s nurse helps patients butt out

Toronto, January 28, 2014

By Patricia Favre

Sandee Westell, the nurse who developed the hospital’s new smoking cessation initiative.
Sandee Westell, the nurse who developed the hospital’s new smoking cessation initiative. (Photo by Yuri Markarov)

Quitting smoking is no one’s idea of a good time, but a St. Michael’s respirology nurse has developed a new intervention initiative to assist patients in doing just that.

With the purpose of identifying patients who smoke and those who want to quit, the process includes questions for respirology patients such as, “How many years have you smoked?” and “How many quit attempts have you made in the past year?”

“It’s very important to identify smokers when they come in,” said Sandee Westell, the nurse who developed the initiative. “A lot of patients want to quit but if we don’t identify them and offer help right away, we might miss an opportunity.”

Research shows that health professionals who spark a conversation with smokers about their tobacco use and dependence can influence healthy decisions.

Westell explained that nurses are in an excellent position to address tobacco use because they are often the first point of contact with patients accessing health care services.

In the St. Michael’s respirology unit, once a patient is identified as a smoker, a nurse can help by counseling the patient on quitting, making a referral to a physician or nurse practitioner for medications or nicotine patches, and offering follow-up support through a helpline or a clinic nurse.

“Patients who smoke often end up leaving the hospital prematurely because they want a cigarette,” said Westell. “If we know which patients are smokers we can offer the right support so that they stay in the hospital and get the care they need.”

Westell’s smoking cessation initiative was developed from the RNAO’s best practice guidelines and contributed to the hospital’s designation as a Best Practice Spotlight Organization. The initiative was chosen because of the population that respirology serves – patients with low lung capacity who are often vulnerable to smoking and lung disease.

With the arrival of 2014, Westell hopes that many smokers made the resolution to butt out.

“My advice to anyone who wants to quit is to never give up,” said Westell. “Keep trying – we’re here to help you.”

About St. Michael's Hospital

St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in 27 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, care of the homeless and global health are among the Hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael's Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.

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