Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Can a nurse who smokes promote health?

Roger Watson, Editor-in-Chief

Does it matter if a nurse smokes? Will they be effective at health promotion? This was the subject of an article from Spain which was based on a study aiming to: 'explore the views of current and ex-smoker nurses on their role in supporting patients to stop smoking.' The article by Mijika et al (2017) was titled: 'Health professionals’ personal behaviours hindering health promotion: A study of nurses who smoke'.

The study used interviews with nurses who had or who still smoked in one hospital in Spain. The views of the nurses varied; one nurse who thought it made no difference said: 'I think that in terms of patients it (being a nurse who smokes) doesn’t have an impact (on the care provided to the patient), I mean . . . the patient knows, when you are at work you are a nurse...'. But another disagreed, saying: 'I think it does have an impact. I think it does. [. . .] For example, if a patient is trying to quit and has a lung cancer and a smoker nurse who smells of tobacco approaches him advocating for something that she’s doing wrong. . ., that has to provoke some kind of reaction in the patient.' Even in the face of patients ill from a smoking related disease, nurses were able to justify smoking: 'I have experienced situations like when you are taking care of a patient who is very ill, grasping for breath, with a lung cancer, the family very uptight, with...very bad...and I have got out and said “I’m going to smoke.” I mean situations that overwhelm you, that you can’t control with medication, that you can’t control...that affects your human nature, you know?'

The authors concluded: 'Nurses with an unhealthy behaviour such as smoking experience
internal processes that might have a negative impact when engaging in health promotion practice. Smoking nurses may be inhibited as health promoters without noticing it, and they may need help to
address the conflict that they experience between their professional responsibility and their smoking behaviour. If health promotion practices are to be enhanced, interventions that help these health professionals are necessary.'

You can listen to this as a podcast


Mujika, A., Arantzamendi, M., Lopez-Dicastillo, O. and Forbes, A. (2017), Health professionals’ personal behaviours hindering health promotion: A study of nurses who smoke. J Adv Nurs.  doi:10.1111/jan.13343

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