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‘People judge me for being a smoker’


Can you advise this student nurse?

“Ok so I know you’re probably going to tell me to just quit, but trust me – it’s not that easy!

“I’m on placement on a stressful ward and my way of coping is to have a quick cigarette break every 3 or 4 hours. But the staff on the ward really judge me for it.

“I always ask my mentor or the ward sister before I go and always get comments about how I’m not really entitled to extra breaks just because I smoke and that I’m setting a bad example to patients.

“I’d love to quit but now just isn’t a good time – if I go without a cigarette then I struggle to concentrate and get more and more stressed, not good for patients.

“How can I get the staff to accept that I just am a smoker and not trying to be difficult?”

- Hazel, Kent


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Readers' comments (6)

  • You are a role-model when on duty. You are likely to smell of smoke which is most disconcerting for patients. You appear to get "free time" when others are not.Substitute leaving the ward to take Legal Highs= would that be acceptable?I am concerned how you cope with stress-levels- that "would be bad for patients" appears to be a veiled threat. You are going to be stressed all through your career at some time or other.

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  • Did you develop your habit purely when starting this placement? Unlikely I think. How about trying e-fags during your allowed breaks. I assure you that you are stoking up resentment against others and do you think you will be able to smoke as easily when you do your theatre, paeds placements?

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  • for what it is worth and without moralising, everybody undergoes stress. some few are lucky that they are able to cope with it better than others, and people have different coping strategies, but you should not allow yourself to 'demand' (or even politely request) exception to any rules such as that which requires regular extra breaks which others do not have as it will naturally engender resentment and could by some be perceived as arrogance or wishing to be special in some way and singled out from the rest.

    I had a new job as senior staff nurse in a unit I was due to take over and manage after three months trial. What I did not discover until I started working was that the previous manager had left one year previously and although the standards of care were very high there was little coordination of work or discipline and the staff did largely what they wished, among many other issues which had not been disclosed to me before starting. Whilst I was still learning the ropes and familiarising myself with my new working environment I was naturally slower than the rest and also needed more time and preferably uninterrupted time to concentrate on dispensing all of the drugs after all the morning's basic care had been completed. At this time I was repeatedly left alone by two nurses who went on to the fire escape for a smoke and a gossip telling me they had already finished all of their work and making me look and feel rather stupid. Obviously in addition to learning and checking all of the drugs which had to be prepared for each round up until midday the following day I also had to cope with all of the interruptions during their absence - telephone, questions from all directions, etc. Eventually the stress built up and I naturally became resentful and especially as I was unable to take quick breaks on demand to grab my morning coffee or even a drink whenever I felt like.

    This smoking break was also a gossip break and I could say little to them as everything I said was distorted and reported back to the director of nursing with whom they were friendly and whose office was on our floor and I went from being introduced to all patients by her as 'her best nurse' with a friendly arm around my shoulder to somebody totally useless and covertly and endlessly bullied which only became apparent when I was summoned to her office and asked to write a letter of resignation as she had no grounds to fire me and she had the embarrassment of having engaged another staff nurse who she chose to take on the managerial role but couldn't pay the salaries of two new nurses where there was only one post available. Feeling dreadful and completely depleted of my self esteem after a highly successful career of over 20 years elsewhere which I had to leave to take up a role as a carer in may family, I discovered the union had 20 files of similar cases on this establishment and five of which had been successfully brought to tribunal and her husband, a school teacher, imprisoned for paedophilia.

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  • Try e cigs. Honestly, I believe they may have saved my marriage! My husband was trying to quit and got so horrible and ratty, that even I couldn't stick it.

    Don't bother with the ones that look like cigarettes with a light on the end, get the refillable ones with a chamber. Just walk into any of the ecig shops that are around, or check out liberty flights online. Good luck x

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  • I sympathise with you as I too was smoking when on my first year on placements and some staff were not very pleasent when it came to me asking to pop out for a quick cigarette after working 6-7 hours without a break!

    The way I over came smoking at placement was too try to cut down over summer when off placement or quit even and then when on the ward I used to my breaks with eveyone else and chew gum to try and dampen down the cravings! It is incrediably difficult and those who say 'oh by an e cig' don't realise that we can not use these within hospital any more so it would still require a break to actually use the thing! Even cutting down too a cigarette every entitled break is a major bonus!

    I do agree it isn't nice for the patients to smell cigarette smoke etc. but it is more difficult when working on a ward, when its busy and your stressed! Its just one step at a time. I wish you the best of luck in your training! :-)

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  • I didn't mean "just buy an ecig" so you can smoke it inside, it's a valuable aid in cutting down, enabling a shift to be worked without having to go outside so often. Plus there will be no smell of smoke.

    I managed to just quit straight out, but if you can't, it makes sense to cut down, for your own health if nothing else.

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