Healthcare News & Insights

Nurse counseling can help hospital patients stop smoking

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), close to 40 million adults in the country smoke cigarettes, and many of these people will end up visiting a hospital for one reason or another. Regardless of whether their illnesses are directly related to smoking, the habit can have detrimental effects on their outcomes from treatment, which may impact your facility’s reimbursement. 

gettyimages-523830739That means it’s in hospitals’ best interest to help patients quit smoking.

Plus, because many smokers have some sort of contact with a healthcare provider in their lifetimes, the feds have been pushing doctors and providers to counsel patients about their smoking habits.

Medicare will reimburse providers in certain settings for smoking cessation counseling, but even if your facility doesn’t qualify for additional payments, it’s still worth it to broach the conversation with patients.

In fact, according to a news release, new research shows conversations with nurses in a hospital setting could motivate more patients to quit.

Impact of nurse counseling

The study, which appears in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, looked at data from several community hospitals in Michigan. At three of the hospitals, patients who indicated that they smoked met at least once with a nurse who was specially trained to help patients kick the smoking habit.

According to the news release, counseling was administered as part of a program called Tobacco Tactics, modeled based on existing standards from the Joint Commission regarding smoking cessation.

Through the program, the nurse acted as a coach, pointing patients to resources and materials designed to help them quit, even helping them obtain prescription medication if necessary. Some patients met with these nurses multiple times during their hospital stay.

Nurses also taught patients specific tactics to help them manage their cravings for cigarettes, such as eating carrots, going for a walk or brushing their teeth. Each interaction with patient only lasted nine minutes, on average.

Six months after discharge, researchers followed up with patients to see how many of them had quit smoking. At the three hospitals where patients had access to nurse counseling, 16.5% of smokers said they’d stopped smoking. Only 5.7% of patients at the other two hospitals said they’d quit.

More effort needed in hospitals

The results from this study make it clear: Providing patients with targeted help to stop smoking can be effective in hospital settings.

Despite the benefits to getting patients to quit smoking, many hospitals aren’t providing patients with counseling or help of any sort, though some will refer patients to a hotline designed to help people stop smoking.

But the Joint Commission may make its smoking cessation measures mandatory, instead of voluntary, for hospitals in the near future. So it may be time to re-evaluate your facility’s efforts toward helping smokers kick the habit.

The best part about a program like this in your hospital is that extra staff isn’t required: Researchers used the Tobacco Tactics training on regular nurses, and they counseled patients during their normal shifts. Because counseling sessions are short, they can be added into a nurse’s daily workload with little trouble.

So it’s a smart idea to improve patient care – and possibly your bottom line – by implementing a smoking cessation program.

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