Be the Tobacco Cessation Expert

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No one should use tobacco in any form – including e-cigarettes and other vaping devices – and this is even more true for people with respiratory conditions. As the lung health experts in their facilities, respiratory therapists have the training and expertise in the respiratory system to advise people about the physiological harms caused by smoking, but not all of them have the specific tools needed to really help people through the quitting process.

How can you become the tobacco cessation expert in your facility?  Gabrielle N. Davis MPH, RRT, RRT-ACCS, RRT-NPS, CTTS, CHES, is the COPD educator/inpatient nicotine cessation coordinator at St. Luke’s Health System in Boise, ID. She offers six tips that can help any RT rise to the challenge –

  1. Learn about what addiction is and what it does to the body. Often times, health care practitioners scold patients for using nicotine products, but provide assistance for those addicted to illegal drugs. Once we learn and understand that nicotine is an addictive substance that is harmful like alcohol and illegal substances, we can more efficiently help people quit.
  2. Take classes in motivational interviewing. Motivational interviewing techniques are integral to a person’s success and will encourage someone to advocate for themselves. Motivational interviewing can also assist the person with adherence to and compliance with other therapies used in nicotine addiction such as nicotine replacement therapy and cessation medications.
  3. Explore what resources your state has available for residents regarding nicotine cessation. Many states offer assistance in nicotine cessation that may include free nicotine cessation medications, nicotine replacement therapy, and 24/7 counseling.
  4. Reach out to local and national organizations such as the American Lung Association, the Association for the Treatment of Tobacco Use and Dependence, the National Association for Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors, and the AARC for assistance in learning more about nicotine cessation overall.
  5. Understand that everyone’s path to cessation may look different. While we were taught as respiratory therapists that our goal is to get folks to quit smoking for lung health and better health overall, that may not be the person’s reason for quitting. Accept their reason and respect their decisions. If someone rejects information you are offering about addiction, be okay with that rejection and ensure that the person knows that you are available when they are ready to talk about cessation
  6. Explore the transtheoretical model of change and how this process is important regarding cessation.

Want to learn more about tobacco cessation? Take the AARC’s Clinician Training on Tobacco Dependence for Respiratory Therapists Course. It was especially designed to bring RTs up to speed in this crucial area of care.

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