Time to Quit: Smoking Cessation Services
MADISON - Sandy Wise's journey to quit smoking was far from ordinary. She wanted to quit for five years, but couldn't find a doctor who would help her.
"Can you believe that?" exclaims Sandy. "My primary care doctor would tell me just to stop. I had been smoking for 45 years. I couldn't just stop."
On her daughter's recommendation, Sandy found Dr. Julie Fagan, a women's health specialist with UW Health. Dr. Fagan understood her problem and set her on the right path towards quitting.
"She didn't yell at me," said Sandy. "Instead she just laid out my options to quit—like the patch, gum or some new medications."
Dr. Fagan also referred Sandy to the tobacco cessation program at the UW Health West Clinic Learning Center, where she consulted with nurse/counselor Ann Dodge. This recently expanded program, which is also available at the East Clinic Learning Center, provides individual quit-tobacco counseling.
Studies have shown that counseling greatly increases the rate of success. Much like Sandy, 70 percent of Wisconsin smokers would like to quit, but don't know how. The tobacco cessation program is a resource for patients and their doctors who want to help them.
"Everyone in the health care system should be taking the time to ask patients if they are ready to quit tobacco," said Dodge. "The problem is, physicians and nurses often don't have the time or resources to help tobacco users, so they may not open up that can of worms."
Dodge worked with Sandy's doctor to get her a prescription for a new medication called Chantix. This is the first pill designed specifically for quitting tobacco, and it's intended to be used with counseling. Patients take Chantix for three to six months. Sandy was able to quit in one month.
"Quitting made me feel like I was 15 again," said Sandy, "except this time I didn't have my girlfriends pressuring me to smoke."
In addition to medication, the UW cessation program motivates patients with other tools (see below). According to Dodge, the most important aspect of the program is the individual counseling and support that each patient receives.
"I try and act more like a coach and work with patients to find out where they want to go," said Dodge. "People who use tobacco are sick of being shamed, and they often come in fearful. It's a great relief for them to know that this is a strong physical addiction and it is not their fault. We work together."
The program certainly helped Sandy. "Ann explained that quitting was the hardest thing I would ever do," says Sandy, "but she wouldn't let me get down on myself, and she never made me feel like I had the plague."
For patients like Sandy, this formal approach to quitting helps to relieve the guilt and blame smokers often attach to themselves, instead building a support system to help them remain tobacco-free.
In an ironic twist, while earlier Sandy couldn't find support anywhere, one month after she officially quit, she received thunderous congratulatory applause from her swimming students, from whom she had hidden her habit for years.
"I announced it to them while they were in the pool one day," explains Sandy. "They stopped what they were doing and their jaws dropped—they were shocked. But then they clapped. Tears came to my eyes."
Taking the First Step
The Learning Centers at the UW Health East and West Clinics offer the following services to help you and your family to stop using tobacco:
- First Breath for pregnant patients—includes gifts throughout the program as encouragement
- Tobacco quitting services for all other patients and their families
- Private, one-on-one counseling beginning with a one-hour visit, and follow up visits as needed
- Proven interventions based on the latest Clinical Practice Guidelines from the UW Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention
- Carbon monoxide testing
- Medication screening, recommendations, and education
- Tobacco cessation services are covered by most insurance plans, including Medicaid
Date Published: 06/26/2008