More than 37,000 people die every year in Canada from tobacco-related illnesses, the equivalent of two planes crashing every week for a year.
GRH registered nurse Kelly Cronin is giving patients the support they need to avoid joining that statistic.
Kelly has spent the past three years running the tobacco cessation program at GRH’s regional cancer centre. She has seen how changes to a person’s lifestyle can lead to improved health outcomes and a better quality of life.
In her lead role at GRH, Kelly is passionate about helping people kick a very difficult addiction. Perseverance is a tool for success. She adds there are proven supports to help patients quit for good.
Before coming to GRH, what kind of nursing work have you done?
My nursing experience over the last 20 years includes working with family physicians, at a walk in clinic, in the coronary care unit, and six years working for a cardiologist running a cardiac prevention clinic and a cardiac rehab program.
What convinced you to help people quit using tobacco?
Helping people make healthier lifestyle choices has been a passion for me over the last nine years. When I worked in the cardiac clinic quitting, smoking was always the number one change people could make to improve their heart health and their health overall. I get excited when I see people make positive changes in their lifestyle.
Who are the people you see?
I provide quit smoking support to patients that come through our diagnostics assessment program based out of the cancer centre, those receiving chemotherapy or radiation as part of their cancer treatment and those that are being monitored after completing cancer treatment.
How do you help them?
My job is to provide education to people about how tobacco smoke can have an impact on how chemotherapy and radiation works, as well as how surgery can be safer if people quit smoking before they have their surgery. Then I ask people what their goal is around quitting smoking, and we go from there. I help people access free quit smoking medications and provide the behavioural support that is required to help increase their chances of success.
What is the top misconception about quitting? What do people not expect?
I would say the top misconception about quitting smoking is expecting a smoker to quit without giving them the tools they need for success.
A person who tries to quit smoking without support is successful only about three to five per cent of the time. If they use a quit smoking medication such as nicotine replacement, or have behavioural support, their chances of success go up to around 20 per cent.
Quitting smoking can be as hard as quitting heroine or cocaine so it’s really important that we give people all the tools they need to successfully quit smoking.
What does it take to quit for good?
It takes perseverance. Quitting isn’t easy, but it is possible as long as people don’t give up on themselves. It’s like learning to ride a bike… we aren’t good at it the first few times we try, but we learn and eventually we are riding on our own without falling.
Quitting smoking is the same: some days it’s do-able and other days the craving can be so bad that you give in and have a few puffs.
I tell people not to beat themselves up if this happens to them, but to reflect on what led to the slip up and brainstorm ways to deal with that trigger for next time.
Who can use your clinic’s services, and how can they contact you?
Anybody receiving care in the cancer centre can connect with me for support to help them quit smoking. Referrals can be made by any of the health care providers in the cancer centre such as a nurse, radiation therapist, chemo suite pharmacist. Or people can refer themselves simply by calling me at 519-749-4370 extension 3848.
What other resources do you recommend to people who aren’t in hospital?
I always suggest people connect with their family physician as many family health teams have a program called STOP (Smoking Therapy for Ontario Patients) that offers free nicotine patches, gum, lozenge, inhaler, spray.
Another great resource is Smokers’ Helpline at www.smokershelpline.ca (opens in a new tab) or 1-877-513-5333 to talk to a “quit coach”. You can also visit www.www.stopontheroad.ca.ca (opens in a new tab) to register for local workshops that offer free nicotine patches.