How to Teach Cessation of Smoking for Nurses


Nurses are natural allies in the fight against smoking, but this doesn't mean they always know how to help patients quit. To help patients on the journey toward quitting, nurses need insight into the nature of addiction as well as insight into potentially effective quit methods.

Evaluating Patient Motivation

  • Teach nurses how to evaluate a patient's motivation to quit, and to bring up the topic of quitting even if a patient doesn't broach it first. Understanding a patient's degree of motivation can help nurses tailor their approach. For example, the Patient Activation Measure assesses patient motivation on a scale of one to four. Level one patients are disengaged and overwhelmed, while level four patients are maintaining positive health behaviors and may have already quit.

Understanding Addictive Behaviors

  • Before nurses can effectively teach patients, they need to understand that smoking isn't just a bad choice; it's highly addictive, and quitting is challenging. Help nurses understand, for example, that a majority of smokers want to quit but few are able to successfully do so without assistance. Education about the cycle of addiction, particularly the ability of a single cigarette to reignite the addiction, is also important.

Overcoming Quitting Barriers

  • Teach nurses that they should tailor their approach to the needs of the patient by identifying patient barriers to quitting. Nurses should also provide information on how quitting can help a specific patient. For example, a healthy 20-year-old might not be very motivated by the thought of getting lung cancer at 70, but rapid aging or smelly clothes could help spur the desire to quit. Nurses should help smokers identify their specific motivations for quitting and then build upon these motivations.

Offering Quit Assistance

  • Nurses need broad knowledge about the various quitting products available, including gums, patches, inhalers, support groups, counseling and medications. Educate nurses about these options, as well as their relative risks and benefits. Help nurses decide which product might work best for each smoker. For example, a smoker who becomes depressed during a quit attempt might benefit from a quit-smoking medication that helps reduce the symptoms of quitting.

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