Nursing students help teens say no to smoking
Cigarette smoking is the leading preventable cause of disease and death in the United States. Most smokers begin their habit during childhood or adolescence. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, despite decades of health warnings, large numbers of young people continue to use tobacco. Currently, more than 3 million adolescents smoke cigarettes. Although most teens who smoke want to quit, they lack the ability or support necessary to do so.
This year, several undergraduate and graduate nursing students from the Health Science Center took the time to lend their support to approximately 900 Bexar County seventh-graders during the fourth annual Youth Tobacco Summit recently held at the San Antonio Convention Center.
Along with representatives from 29 local organizations, including the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association, the nursing students led workshops, hands-on activities and discussions with the teens to educate them about the dangers of smoking and addiction. The purpose of the annual summit is to provide the teenagers with the information and leadership skills necessary so they can become powerful advocates against smoking in their schools and communities.
Laura Muñoz, who is working towards a doctorate in nursing, took part in the summit. "I really felt like we were helping to plant the seed of wisdom and knowledge about the dangers of smoking in these teenagers' heads," Muñoz said. "It was a great opportunity to give them courage so they will have the strength of will to resist when the pressures to take up smoking are upon them."
Anthia Murray, instructor in the department of family nursing care, said Health Science Center nursing students' participation in youth-tobacco control programs and other community health events allow them to put what they learn at the UTHSC into action.
"Our students see the multiple roles they, as nurses, can play in the community," Murray said. "They see the importance of collaborating with other health care organizations and professionals to educate society about good health."
Dr. Kathleen Stevens, nursing professor and director of the UTHSC's Academic Center for Evidence-Based Nursing (ACE), said the nursing students' role in community-wide smoking cessation events is twofold.
"Our students play a very important role as educators and role models for the teens," Dr. Stevens said. "At the same time, they are researchers — observing the impact and effectiveness of various anti-smoking efforts."
Dr. Stevens said that the students' efforts are part of an ACE project funded by the University Health System. The project supports the assembly of a coalition of community organizations and experts who will translate the research into smoking cessation programs. These evidence-based programs will be implemented in high schools in San Antonio. Dr. Stevens hopes to achieve a 25 percent quit rate among teens.
ACE was established last year as one of the university's centers of excellence. The center is dedicated to translating research into practice in collaboration with a number of other evidence-based practice entities, particularly the Veterans Evidence-Based Research, Dissemination and Implementation Center (VERDICT) at the South Texas Veterans Health Care System, Audie L. Murphy Division. Dr. Jacqueline Pugh is the director.
For more information about ACE and ACE projects, go to www.acestar.uthscsa.edu.