I am very proud of the fact that Texas Children’s works so hard to promote a culture of health and wellness for our patients, families, employees and physicians. However, despite our best efforts I continue to receive complaints about a particularly challenging issue – smoking on or near the hospital campus.
Many of you know that I have fought against an outright ban of tobacco use at Texas Children’s, because I realize some patient families and staff smoke to cope with the tremendously challenging situations they face as caregivers. Yet, this is an important topic that clearly needs to be addressed.
Let me start off by sharing an important fact with you. Every year more than 480,000 people die from tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke. You can imagine my concern when I continue to see so many people – both parents and employees – smoking outdoors, in the vicinity of our patients. The very patients we have taken into our care and promised to make better. It is so unfortunate to see a well-intentioned parent taking a patient out for fresh air and then, within minutes, lighting a cigarette near their child.
Now, I will admit to you that seeing an employee smoking any place near our patients and families is even tougher for me. I think of the impression being made on the children who see someone smoking who is obviously a Texas Children’s staff member or employee. We know these children and their families look to us as role models. More importantly, I am thinking of the impact of smoking, not only to their health, but to yours. Your health is just as important to me as that of the precious patients in our care. When you are in good health, you are here, where your teams and patients need you the most. When you are at your best, you can give patients and their families – and your own families – the very best, and isn’t that what we all work and hope for?
So I want to take this opportunity to remind you about the designated smoking retreats we have in place for employees and families. Though it is my heartfelt wish that you abandon the habit altogether, I know it isn’t easy, and that until you are ready to quit, all I can do is encourage you to follow the protocols we have put in place for your health and safety, as well as those of our patients and families. So when you see a colleague, parent or family member smoking outside of designated smoking areas or near our young patients, I encourage you to gently direct them to the appropriate areas. But also take a moment to remind them about the effects of smoking near our patients. It is critical that our families, our physicians, nurses and employees all work as a team at all times to ensure the safest possible environment for our patients’ healing.
I have seen people struggle to give up smoking and know how challenging it can be, so I understand it is more than just a notion. That is why Texas Children’s has invested in smoking cessation programs to help employees earnestly attempting to quit. We have a health coach in Employee Health and Wellness certified in chemical dependency (including tobacco) counseling. Our Employee Health Clinic can also refer you to resources that provide support while you are trying to stop smoking. And most recently, we partnered with MD Anderson to provide an extensive, long-term tobacco treatment program that has proven to be very successful. My hope is to provide you with as many options as possible because I understand there is no one-size-fits-all answer.
As you are thinking about what might work for you, I would like to give you something to help you start: Allen Carr’s Easy Way to Stop Smoking. I think this book can be a helpful tool, but more importantly, I want you to know that I believe in you. I believe you can do it. I believe you can put your health first and be your best self. When you are your best self you have the greatest potential for positively impacting patient outcomes. And it starts with making sure we take good care of ourselves and each other because we have a lot more to do together here at Texas Children’s!
Click here for more information about Texas Children’s smoking cessation programs.
And if you have a colleague you think might need our help, please share this blog post with them.
Designated smoking areas:
- 6651 Main (Pavilion/Tower E) – covered, colorful screened area along Fannin Street north of TMC entrance 9/driveway
- 6621 Fannin (West Tower, Abercrombie Building, also designated for Wallace Tower and Feigin Tower) – patio area off of Abercrombie 1 North corridor, between TCH and CHI St. Luke’s
- 1919 South Braeswood (Meyer Building) – wood fenced area at corner of building driveway, east of Meyer Building Shuttle Stop at Garage 19
- 18200 Katy Freeway (West Campus) – covered, brick freestanding shelter near the Emergency Center parking and entrance.
- 17600 Interstate 45 South (The Woodlands Campus) – covered, stone/metal screened area near the Emergency Center entrance.
- 8080 Stadium Drive – small covered area with bench in parking lot