Meet Carol Southard, Smoking Cessation Expert
It was with immense pleasure that I recently accepted the invitation to join HealthCentral as a Tobacco Treatment expert. As a nurse who has specialized in tobacco cessation for over 20 years, I am extremely passionate about doing all that is humanly possible to ensure that efficacious, evidence based cessation intervention for all tobacco users becomes a priority. It has long been a frustration to me that cessation counseling has never been at the forefront of any health profession. We in healthcare have succeeded in letting smokers know that it is unduly dangerous to smoke. We have not succeeded in driving home the message that not only can tobacco users ask for help, they absolutely should ask for quit assistance!
Perhaps, ironically, I first became interested in prevention during my initial years in nursing back in the early 1970s. My first job was in a Surgical Intensive Care Unit at a large academic hospital, The University of Iowa Medical Center. I received my BSN from the University of Iowa and was extremely flattered when the Director of Nursing sought me out and asked that I consider a position in the SICU as she had heard what a stellar student I had been. So obsequiousness won out. I accepted her offer despite the fact that I had been resolute about specializing in psychiatric nursing!
When the SICU assistant head nurse, the moniker in those days, became the head nurse in the Emergency Room, she asked me to join her staff. So, once again, I allowed persuasion rather than enthusiasm to determine my professional destiny. After three years, during which I learned a tremendous amount about critical care nursing, I decided it was time to establish my own professional path. I concluded that I desperately desired to be on the other end of the health care spectrum. I wanted to do what I could do as a nurse to keep people out of the conditions I was seeing every day that resulted in hospitalization, invasive painful treatments, and even death.
I delved into prevention literature. The universal pronouncement was that smoking was the most preventable cause of injury and death. This was the case not only in this country, but world wide. That peaked my interest, to say the least. After yet another SICU position in a hospital in Washington, DC, I decided it was time to switch careers. For about three years I worked as an Occupational Health Nurse which allowed me to utilize the skills I had learned from my experience in the emergency room but also provided me with the opportunity to apply my new found interest in wellness. I taught classes on weight loss, stress management, preventing back injury, etc. I did not yet feel qualified to deal with the tobacco issue but it was never far from my thoughts!
I moved back to my home town, Chicago, in 1980. I accepted a position as an assistant manager of a large outpatient clinic at the University of Chicago. Despite the fact that this was largely a tertiary care institution, I maintained my interest in prevention and wellness. As soon as I noticed that the American Lung Association of Metropolitan Chicago was offering an intensive three day program in cessation intervention certification, I was on board. And thus began my love affair with tobacco cessation. I finally was on the road I knew was meant for me!
Because cessation intervention has not traditionally been a recognized specialty and was considered a "niche" field, I decided to be practical and pursued a graduate degree in nursing administration at Loyola University of Chicago. But since being certified by the ALA in 1984, the fact that I never stopped facilitating cessation programs, kept up on the literature, provided presentations to community and professionals whenever and wherever I could, finally paid off - albeit it took years! It was not until 2000 when I finally was offered a position at Northwestern Memorial Hospital as a full time Tobacco Cessation Specialist. And I have been going strong in the field ever since.
In addition to my position at Northwestern, I serve as a Tobacco Cessation Consultant for many Chicago area hospitals. I have published articles and presented numerous workshops and seminars for health professionals as well as for community groups on tobacco cessation throughout the nation. I was privileged to be included on the expert panels of both the Illinois Academy of Family Physicians and the Illinois Academy of Pediatrics, each of which produced CME presentations entitled "Adult Smoking Cessation: Intervention Strategies for Primary Care Providers" and "Adolescent Tobacco Use - Prevention and Cessation: Strategies for Primary Care Providers" respectively.
I was particularly pleased to be a peer reviewer for the Smoking Cessation Practice Guidelines, 2008, which will be released to the public in May. One of the most rewarding projects I have ever been involved with that has had a national impact is serving as the Project Consultant for the Smoking Cessation Initiative, of the American Dental Hygienists' Association. The initiative was designed to promote cessation intervention by dental hygienists (www.askadviserefer.org). I am an active member of ATTUD (Association for the Treatment of Tobacco Use and Dependence, http://www.attud.org/), an organization of providers dedicated to the promotion of and increased access to evidence-based tobacco treatment for the tobacco user. I was a founding member of The Nightingales (http://www.nightingalesnurses.org/), a group of nurse activists who work to focus public attention on the behavior of the tobacco industry and its contribution to the preventable epidemic of tobacco-caused disease and death.. Recently, I launched the Chicago Second Wind: A Chicagoland Smoking Cessation Initiative. In addition, I have my own Tobacco Cessation Consulting company, QuitOnce, http://www.quitoncechicago.com/.
Although smoking prevalence has decreased dramatically over the past 25 years, the number of people who currently smoke is still substantial given the health dangers and the level of public awareness of those dangers. Smokers site a health professional's advice to quit as an important motivator for attempting to stop smoking. With effective education, counseling and support (rather than condemnations and warnings about dangers of smoking), those of us in healthcare can provide an invaluable service to anyone who uses a tobacco product. Helping someone overcome a tobacco addiction may be the most broad-reaching health care intervention and it is my hope that joining the HealthCentral team will allow me to provide assistance to a large number of smokers!