Tips for nurses to quit smoking


veer | Christy Thompson

Smoking can be one of the most difficult habits to break. Life is full of stress, anxiety and unexpected events, and those things are magnified a hundred times during a nursing shift! Smoking can be a habitual way to deal with stress and other negative emotions so common to healthcare workers. Or, very simply, you may just LIKE smoking. Whatever your situation, here are some suggestions for quitting the habit.

1. Own your reasons for quitting.
What’s your story? How did you get started? Were you a nursing student? Or perhaps it started your first year on the job? Bottom line – the reasons that made you start smoking are probably different from the reasons you continue to smoke.

Think about why you want to quit. Can you list 10 personal reasons? I could write on and on about reasons why you should quit smoking (and you probably know them already!), but until those reasons are YOUR reasons, they will not motivate you.

Why should you quit? It can’t be just because someone else wants you to. Find your own personal reasons for quitting and OWN them.

2. Start small.
Going “cold turkey” is not pleasant, whether we’re talking about Thanksgiving dinner or breaking a habit. Some people can do it, but most cannot.

So, start small, but keep your eye on the end result. Get out a calendar and chart your future goal, such as “I want to be smoke-free by this date.” Then work backwards up the calendar to calculate how many cigarettes (or other smoking items) to decrease by per week or month to meet your goal.

Too much math? Just smoke one less a day than you did the day before.

3. Enlist help.
Are you a people person? Make quitting a group effort by creating a group on Facebook. Tell your friends and family why you are quitting and when your smoke-free goal date is. Get together with some coworkers for 10 minutes during your shift for a NON-smoking break. Join a professional program that incorporates group sessions.

Not a people person? You may still benefit from online groups, even if you choose not to interact. Speak with your doctor about medication options. Get techy by trying the new electronic cigarettes. Seek out a fellow nurse who’s kicked the habit and draw inspiration from their success. Hearing their story will make it seem that much more do-able for you.

Most importantly, avoid hanging around smokers…secondhand smoke doesn’t help decrease cravings, I promise!

4. Get a new stress-busting habit.
Smoking is a habit. You know that already. Changing a habit is challenging! One of the best ways to nix a habit is to replace it with another one…but make it a good one! You may think I’m going to list off the usual exercise, eat right, think-happy-thoughts suggestions, but let’s switch it up a bit! All those are good things, but you may want to try one or more of the following at work when the stress can really make you want to smoke:

  • Dance. Tried some new tunes lately? Instead of a smoke break, put in the earbuds and take a dance break! Bust some moves in the privacy of the bathroom on your unit, or take those moves outside on a nice day. Hey, if people laugh at you, you’ve brought a smile to their faces!
  • Organize. Breakroom a mess? Nasty microwave? Smelly fridge with science experiments growing inside? Instead of a smoke break, take five and clean/organize one cupboard, one shelf or one wall in the breakroom at a time. Not only will you be able to eat without fearing fungus, but your peers will elect you Best Coworker Ever!
  • Read. No, People magazine can’t replace a cigarette right away. But it’s all about working toward replacing a bad habit with a good one. There’s nothing like a good book or magazine (like Scrubs!) to distract your mind from daily stress! Between Kindle apps and RSS feeds, you don’t even have to carry reading material as long as you have your smartphone, tablet or computer handy.

Are you ready to quit smoking? You can do it! Take advantage of these suggestions and tweak them to fit your life to ensure success!

More tips on quitting smoking for nurses here!

Have you quit smoking? Tell us what worked for you in the comments section! Share this article online or post it in the breakroom as a resource!

Do you have a question for Nurse Jessica? Send them to us here.

Jessica Ellis
With experience in multiple specialties such as ER, ICU, CVICU, PACU, NICU and case management, Jessica has also been a key contributor for several of the world’s leading healthcare publishers. Jessica has been certified in CPR, BLS Instructor, PHTLS, ACLS, TNCC, CFRN, NRP, PALS and CPS. She previously functioned as an editor and contributor for, and an author/editor of numerous online nursing CEU courses for Coursepark. Jessica accepts ongoing professional nursing writing contracts for both authoring and editing from major textbook and online education publishers internationally.

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