This is the time of year when many of our patients may be considering quitting smoking as part of a resolution to improve their health. How can we as health care providers best support them?
Together with a colleague, I’ve been involved in establishing a free, public smoking cessation clinic at Ridge Meadows Hospital – the first of its kind in Fraser Health allowing self-referral. In the course of my work with patients, I’ve found the following techniques useful. They may help you break through to one of your patients too.
I share more tips and tricks for supporting patients to stay quit once they’ve quit on our latest Fraser Health podcast or read on for more advice.
Understand quit patterns – relapses are normal
Addressing tobacco use requires a caring, compassionate approach to meet people where they are. Health care providers should ensure patients know that smoking is a chronic relapsing medical condition and tobacco dependence is an addiction. As such, it is normal to relapse while trying to quit for good. Patients shouldn’t feel guilty. Health care providers need to know that nicotine addiction will require repeated clinical interventions: remission can be achieved, but relapse is common.
Some points to keep in mind and to share with patients: 87 per cent of current smokers have tried to quit at least once, and most smokers make between five to seven quit attempts before succeeding, some as many as 30.
How to start a conversation with a patient about quitting smoking
We talk about using the “5 As” to help patients quit smoking: To ASK about tobacco use and exposure, to ADVISE tobacco users to quit, to ASSESS their readiness to make a quit attempt, to ASSIST with the quit attempt and to ARRANGE follow up care.
Good, non-judgmental icebreakers that can help you kick-start a quit conversation include sharing with the patient some immediate impacts of putting down that cigarette. They include the fact that within 24 hours, their chance of heart attack decreases, within 72 hours, their breathing becomes easier and their lung capacity increases, and further down the road, within five to 15 years their stroke risk is reduced to that of someone who has never smoked.
Or you might share with them some startling facts: ask if they know that there are an estimated 4,800 chemicals in tobacco smoke, and that at least 11 of them have been proven to be carcinogenic, or cancer-causing in humans. I talk very honestly to my patients about the health consequences of smoking and the mortality rates associated with tobacco use.
Resources to help you go smoke free
Starting a quit conversation is an important way health care providers can promote life-saving smoking cessation. But it’s not the only way to encourage smoking cessation. Fraser Health offers plenty of smoking cessation and education materials on our Smoke-Free Policy Pulse page for employees who want to learn more. We’re also offering Smoking Cessation Support and Nicotine Withdrawal Management training for clinical leaders and educators, both in person at sites and online through a CCRS course.
There are also many good public resources to refer patients to that can support their quit efforts, from QuitNow BC to the BC Smoking Cessation Program. And Fraser Health residents trying to quit smoking can join the Ridge Meadows Hospital Smoking Cessation Clinics, which are offered once a month, and are free to join without a referral by calling (604) 463-1820.
Now that you’ve got the basics, why not make it your own resolution to support a patient to be successful at quitting smoking this year?