A short talk with a nurse can have a significant impact on persuading hospital patients to quit smoking after being discharged, according to US researchers.
They found self-reported quit rates more than doubled when nurses were trained to coach patients on how to stop smoking and how to receive help after going home.
“Hospitalisation is the perfect time to help people quit”
The study involved 1,528 patients in five community hospitals in Michigan. Those who had been treated at three of the hospitals met at least once, sometimes more, with a nurse who had undergone a one-hour training on how to help people quit smoking.
Six months after release, 16.5% of the smokers from the intervention hospitals said they had quit, compared to 5.7% from the other hospitals.
The study authors noted that smoking cessation techniques were not routinely taught in US nursing schools.
Under the Tobacco Tactics programme, nurses were taught quitting strategies, including identifying triggers and planning strategies to manage cravings – for example, munching on carrots, brushing teeth or going for a walk.
They were also taught which quit-smoking aids were likely to help different types of smoker based on their addiction and past attempts at kicking the habit. As a minimum, they gave patients a brochure on quitting and a card with a tobacco quit helpline number.
The nurse-patient interactions at the Tobacco Tactics hospitals lasted about nine minutes on average, said the researchers in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
At the other two hospitals, nurses and other staff did not change their normal approach to caring for patients, they said.
If smokers in Tobacco Tactics hospitals agreed to try, the nurse worked with a doctor to make sure they had whatever tools were best-suited to their addiction.
In many cases, that meant nicotine replacement therapy. In other cases, smokers quit with the help of an antidepressant or a prescription smoking-cessation medication.
After they left the hospital, volunteers called the patients five times in the first month to check in and offer support.
The authors acknowledged that quit rates in the Tobacco Tactics hospitals and in the control hospitals were slightly lower than quit rates seen in other similar studies.
This trend could be because the study used “real world bedside nurses” and not research nurses whose only job is to do smoking cessation, the researchers suggested.
Quit rates more than double after nurse consultation
Study author Dr Sonia Duffy, a professor of nursing at Ohio State University, said: “Hospitalisation is the perfect time to help people quit.
“They’re more motivated and nurses can explain how smoking harms their health, including slowing healing,” she said.
She noted that many smokers, even those who planned to quit, picked the habit straight back as soon as they left hospital.
Getting them started with a quitting plan and tools while they are admitted boosts their chances of success, suggested Dr Duffy.
“Nurses have the greatest access to patients, they have relationships with patients and they can relate the benefits of quitting to the patient’s medical condition,” she added.