‘I’m quitting today’ – nurse puts down the cigarettes for World No Tobacco Day

Nurse Sunshine Cuevas is marking World No Tobacco Day by starting her journey to quit smoking.

Sunshine Cuevas was not surprised to see her carbon monoxide breath test turn red.

As a smoker and a nurse in Westmead Hospital’s acute adolescent unit, she understands why her patients are resistant to put down the cigarettes.

“I can see both sides of the coin – it’s not as easy as just telling someone in hospital that they need to stop smoking,” Sunshine said.

“I understand their resistance and the hardship of trying to quit. So today isn’t just about giving the youth information and tools to quit, it’s also about training the nursing staff so we’re better equipped to support the patients.”

Her personal experience was part of what inspired Sunshine to apply for a World No Tobacco Day grant from the Centre for Population Health.

Her team was one of four successful applicants across Western Sydney Local Health District, along with the Primary Health Care Education and Research Unit, Blacktown Hospital’s Patient Connect Volunteers, and Westmead Respiratory Ambulatory Care.

The acute adolescent unit at Redbank House provides live-in crisis support for young people aged 12-18 who are dealing with severe mental health issues including depression, anxiety and psychosis.

Many have stopped attending school and are dealing with substance abuse issues.

Today they heard from a pharmacist, an exercise physiologist and a nurse educator, and had the opportunity to do a ‘smokerlyzer’ breath test to see whether their blood contained dangerous levels of carbon monoxide.

Tobacco Control grant recipients Kym Rizzo Liu, Vinita Swami, Sumithira Joseph, Mary Roberts, Smita Shah, Sunshine Cuevas and Ashpreet Kaur.

Free nicotine replacement therapy was available for clients, carers and staff.

But the day was just one part of a long-term education and support program, according to Redbank House operations manager Sumithira Joseph.

“Before the youth leave here, we connect them with community teams in Parramatta, Blacktown and Mount Druitt,” Sumithira explained.

“They will also get the opportunity to hear from young people who have given up smoking. There’s nothing like young people hearing from young people, rather than just from clinicians.

“We’re aiming to reach people at an early age and give them the skills and support to form lifelong healthy habits.”

Sunshine said she can appreciate why it’s difficult for patients to give up smoking, which is why she wants staff to have more tools to support them.

Fellow grant recipient, clinical nurse consultant Mary Roberts, had a similar message from her stall at the entrance of Westmead Hospital.

“Stopping smoking is one of the most important things people can do to improve lung health,” Mary said.

“Tobacco is a highly addictive drug and it’s very difficult to quit, however, you can do it.

“Research has shown that the most effective way to quit is to get ongoing support from a health professional, such as a doctor, nurse or pharmacist, using a combination of counselling and medication.”

If you want to be like Sunshine and make every day a tobacco-free day, please contact the Centre for Population Health on 9840 3708 for more information about how they can support you, or go to the iCanQuit website.