Value of Nicotine Cessation Training for COPD Care

 Published: November 5, 2019

By: Heather Willden


no vaping no smoking sign

“COPD has remained as one of the top five causes of death in America for years,” said Gabrielle N. Davis MPH, RRT-ACCS, NPS, CTTS, CHES. “Regardless of readmissions, nicotine addiction attributes to this rate.”

Helping patients with nicotine cessation targets the goal to increase the quality of life for the patient.

“Because COPD is an incurable disease, quality of life may take precedence over quantity of life for some patients,” Davis said. “Encouraging, educating and assisting these patients with cessation can have a positive effect on their disease process and other aspects of their lives.”

Enhancing patient care

Nicotine cessation training enhances the care respiratory therapists can give to their patients.

For Davis, it’s “imperative in treating and educating patients with diagnosed and undiagnosed COPD.” She believes patients with COPD, regardless of stage, who continue to use nicotine risk increased morbidity and mortality.

“RTs having training in nicotine cessation arms the RT with information necessary to empower the patient while they are providing care,” Davis said.

She continues to explain that while RTs complete therapy with the patient, they have a captive audience.

“Talking about nicotine addiction and cessation for at least three minutes during therapy increases the patient’s likelihood of continued cessation,” Davis said.

Building trust

“Patients benefit from this training by receiving information from a trusted respiratory clinician,” Davis said.

RTs can provide this information as a “clinician who knows the outcomes of nicotine addiction firsthand, without using fear or guilt-based tactics,” according to Davis.

She believes people with COPD may likely spend more time with RTs than any other clinician in the hospital, pulmonary office or pulmonary rehabilitation.

“This makes a respiratory therapist the perfect clinician to provide nicotine cessation counseling and education,” Davis said.

Gabrielle’s tips for developing your own program

  1. Garner the support of your colleagues first and leadership afterward. Most program ideas and implementations start from leadership down. When implementing a nicotine program led by the respiratory department, having the support of the RTs who will actually be delivering the education is integral to the success of the program.
  2. Learn about addiction. While this information may not be provided in our classes or required to practice or provide nicotine cessation counseling, knowing what addiction is and the biopsychosocial aspects of addictions will be essential to program success and patient cessation.
  3. Ask for help from folks that have done it before. Reach out to RT colleagues in other hospitals/facilities/offices, other states and places with different EHR systems. After you gather the information, sort through and analyze what practices and processes will work best for where you work.
  4. Use AARConnect as a way to garner support and network with other colleagues with nicotine programs already in place.

Email with questions or comments, we’d love to hear from you.

Heather Willden

Heather Willden is the Director of Governance and Strategic Initiatives for the AARC where she works with state affiliates as the HOD liaison. She also manages DEI efforts and strategic initiatives. Connect with her about these topics by email, AARConnect or LinkedIn. When she's not working, you can find her podcasting with her husband, exploring new hiking trails, photographing, and spending time with her family.

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