slideshow widget

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

While you're at it, add this to Our Job Title

Regular readers of my blog know that I'm an ardent believer that the best way to get people to quit smoking is through education.

So when Tim
Frymyer, RRT, and creator of informed me about his new website, and his desire to write a guest post for the RT Cave, I eagerly accepted his proposal.

Check out his post published below, and then be sure to check out the new website he created with the intent of helping smokers quit. Enjoy.

I'd like to first thank Rick for letting me post something in
The Cave
. I believe it is an honor and I hope the information lives up to his standards. Let me start off by telling you all a little about my experience as a therapist. I started 20 years ago in Dallas at the county hospital and then moved on to a private non-profit. All the time, I’ve worked exclusively with adult and geriatric patients. I have all the respect in the world for RTs who work with neonates and peds, because to this day, they still scare me. I'm not sure why exactly, I'm just more comfortable with adult patients. My co-workers would tell you it’s because I like to talk. They might be right.

Anyway, I've been a bedside therapist, run a pulmonary lab, presented numerous educational seminars and finally, managed my department for about 5 years. So given all that experience, I've come to realize that RTs who work in the adult-side of patient care have 1 industry to thank for our job security, our bread and butter as it were. Yes, that would be the tobacco industry. No real surprise here.

Sure, we treat asthmatics, post-op patients, and we can't wait for that next difficult ARDS case, but our primary energies are spent taking care of people who have bad lungs, a bad heart or some other disease related to their smoking. This is what compelled me from the bedside world to the virtual world and hence, the creation of "". I figured it was time to be a little more proactive instead of reactive. If I could help just one person stop smoking, then that would be one less patient some therapist may have to treat.

Currently, smoking in this country costs us, the taxpayers, over $193 Billion. That total is based on lost productivity and both direct and indirect healthcare costs. Back in 2004, COPD by itself costs Americans $37 Billion. So while everyone is talking about healthcare reform and Obamacare, think what would happen if everyone just stopped smoking?

Let that sink in for a while. We'd be talking about the roughly 20% of our population that smokes, laying down their packs and lighters. That sounds like some kind of Twilight Zone episode doesn't it?
But right off the top, you're talking about eliminating the 90% of all lung cancer cases related to smoking. What would happen to the lesser known diseases that smoking is a risk factor for like: osteoporosis, oral cancer, stroke, prematurity of infants, SIDS, bladder cancer, your kid's childhood ear infections, etc.? All these are risk factors of smoking. Now we're talking about making a real impact on universal healthcare reform.

What about the human element though? How many people would you say die in the U.S. because of smoking; 10,000, 50,000, 100,000 people? Well, you're getting warmer, roughly 400,000 deaths every year are attributable to smoking. That's 1 in 5 deaths in the United States (according to the CDC). It's kind of funny, because I will occasionally still read pro-smoking blogs that deny the overwhelming statistics associated with smoking and smoking related disease. To them, it's all one big conspiracy created by the government and big pharma. They believe that people who suffer from COPD, lung cancer or other smoking related illnesses, are just the exception to the rule, rather than the rule itself. Oh, if they could only round with us for one week in the hospital, then they’d see the truth.

Well, I hope I have convinced you that part of our job as respiratory therapists is to educate our patients and their families to the very real dangers of smoking. Most of my patients are very glad to discuss the topic in the hospital setting, but will typically dismiss the idea once they're discharged and feeling better. However, if we had a way of giving them something or following up with them on discharge, they might have a greater motivation and/or desire to quit smoking. We have to strike while the proverbial iron’s hot. Getting them in contact with a program or service while still in the hospital is a great way of helping the patient become smoke-free. Simply getting the patient to talk with his or her physician can greatly improve their chances of success, so feel free to employ their GP in your education efforts.

Here is one example of what this might look like. When I left the acute care world, we had just implemented a therapist-based smoking cessation program that did involve a 1-week post-discharge phone call by one of our therapists. We were fortunate in that these therapists were also in our asthma clinic, so it wasn't a stretch on our staff's resources to have them perform this task. I know not every facility has this luxury. But at the very least, you can leave them with some kind of a resource in their hands like a phone number to a quit center. Then you’ve at least done your part.

Ultimately though, it's up to the patient, isn't it? I never met a patient who quit because I asked them to. They have to be convinced and committed to the idea that smoking cessation is in their best interest. It's simply up to us, to help paint that picture while we're waiting for the albuterol to nebulize. So make use of your time wisely and help get the message out. Oh, and one of the best times to bring it up is when the family is in the room. Grandkids and little children can be the best motivation to help someone quit.

Stay tuned. This post is part 1 of a series. To view part 2 click here.

Related links:

No comments: