Understanding What It Means to Work in a Nicotine-Free Facility
Written by Rose Torrento on Thursday, May 09, 2019 Posted in On the Job
You’re a nurse. You know you shouldn’t smoke or chew tobacco. But you’re also a human being. You get stressed or you go out with friends and, without thinking about it, you find yourself with a cigarette in hand, taking the edge off. You’re not a smoker, but you’re definitely having a smoke. It’s no big deal, right? Actually, it could be a big deal if you’re employed at a nicotine-free facility.
The rise in nicotine-free hospitals
More and more hospitals and health care facilities are adopting nicotine-free policies. This not only prohibits the use of nicotine products on campuses but also requires nurses and other health care providers to be nicotine-free outside of work.
Smoking and tobacco are leading causes of preventable death in the United States, and many hospitals are encouraging (and requiring) nicotine-free lifestyles as part of comprehensive wellness programs for their workers. By implementing these types of policies, many hospitals aim to set an example for their patient populations and provide better quality care.
If you are a travel nurse seeking employment at a nicotine-free facility, you should be prepared to understand and adhere to this type of policy full-time.
What does nicotine-free really mean?
Many nurses misunderstand the term “nicotine-free,” believing it only prohibits smoking cigarettes or that the rules only apply while at work. This is not the case.
In most cases, nicotine-free policies require that you abstain from using any products that have nicotine in them. This can include cigarettes, chewing tobacco, cigars, e-cigarettes, and even vape pens. This doesn’t just apply to your health care facility’s campus; you aren’t allowed to use nicotine products anywhere — not in your own home, in public, or elsewhere.
When you agree to your facility’s nicotine-free policy, you should know that it generally includes an onboarding nicotine test, as well as potential random nicotine tests through the duration of your assignment. Nicotine testing is normally conducted through a urine test.
Some policies differ from others, but testing positive for nicotine could prevent you from beginning your assignment or could lead to termination.
Nicotine-free is a controversial topic
While drug testing for substances such as marijuana is very common in workplaces across the nation, the move to ban nicotine has caused a lot of controversy in the health care industry. Many hospitals enact these policies to lead patients by example through healthy lifestyle choices. However, some nurses and health care providers believe these policies are an overstep.
Travel nurses may think nicotine-free policies are helpful for encouraging the workforce to quit unhealthy habits and “practice what they preach.” On the other hand, nurses may think that banning nicotine usage outside of the workplace is an intrusion on their freedoms, since nicotine does not impair a nurse’s ability to do their job.
Whether you believe nicotine-free policies are positive or negative, as a travel nurse you need to be prepared to encounter them when searching for assignments. If you are a nicotine user and do not wish to or cannot work at a nicotine-free facility, speak to your recruiter about finding an assignment at a facility that does not have a nicotine-free policy.
About the Author
Rosemarie Torrento has worked in health care for more than 26 years, beginning as a registered nurse in 1988. Early in her nursing career, Torrento worked as a freelance contract nurse before accepting a position in nursing administration. During her 17-year tenure in that role, she oversaw nursing employment and travel nurse contracting at a Level 1 Trauma Hospital in Michigan. Understanding the challenges travel nurses faced, Torrento founded Health Providers Choice Inc. (HPC) in 2003. Through Torrento’s extensive experience and her role as President and CEO, HPC provides travel placement of registered nurses and allied health professionals to hospital systems nationally.