Healthy Living in the North

It’s all about the big picture

This article was co-written by Reg Wulff and Doreen Bond. Learn more about all of our contributors.

20160630-RWulff-470x394Did you read our last blog post about the rollout of Northern Health’s new and improved Smoke Free Grounds policy? Now that you’ve had a bit of time to think about it, it might seem like it’s all about telling people where they can’t smoke or use vapour products. However, the Smoke Free Grounds policy isn’t only about telling people that they can’t smoke on Northern Health property; it’s actually part of a bigger picture when it comes to Northern Health’s efforts to reduce tobacco use.

Northern Health is committed to addressing tobacco use as a standard of care. In addition to the Smoke Free Grounds policy, we’ve implemented three new clinical practice standards to give our nursing staff some tools to help tobacco users manage withdrawal symptoms and get support when it comes to quitting smoking. These standards are: Brief Intervention Training for nurses, the Nicotine Withdrawal Protocol, and the Registered Nurses Initiated Action.

What does this mean for you?

Using Brief Intervention, nurses can quickly identify patients who use tobacco. It helps nurses figure out who might need nicotine replacement therapy products such as the nicotine patch while in Northern Health facilities. Brief Intervention is very simple and it only takes a couple of minutes.

Then there’s the Nicotine Withdrawal Protocol and the Registered Nurses Initiated Action. I know they sound like fancy terms, but their purpose is quite simple: these two standards give nurses an opportunity to provide tobacco users with nicotine replacement therapy products for a short period until a doctor’s order can be obtained.

Going through nicotine withdrawal can be extremely uncomfortable for a tobacco user. Providing a nicotine patch can help ease withdrawal symptoms for patients who use tobacco. The three clinical practice standards are about enabling nursing staff to take action and help tobacco users manage their withdrawal symptoms.

The Nicotine Withdrawal Protocol and the Registered Nurses Initiated Action also contribute to patient safety. They provide another option for patients who might put themselves at risk by leaving Northern Health grounds to have a smoke. After all, though they seem like distant memories now, winter conditions in the north can be dangerous for anyone, let alone patients who use wheelchairs or have IV poles to deal with.

Creating a healthy environment is essential for the wellness of patients, residents, visitors, and staff who access or work in Northern Health facilities. Northern Health wants to lead by example and provide a healthy environment for everyone where they live, work, and play. The refreshed Smoke Free Grounds policy and the three clinical practice standards are important pieces of creating that healthy environment.

So remember, if you’re a tobacco user who is about to enter a Northern Health facility, the Smoke Free Grounds policy is about everyone’s health! If you need help managing nicotine withdrawal symptoms while in facility, talk to your nurse. There is help available.

Quitting smoking can greatly improve your health and help you live longer. For more information and support, contact HealthLink BC by dialing 8-1-1 or visit QuitNow.

If you’re interested in getting 12 weeks of free nicotine replacement therapy products, talk to your local pharmacist.

Reg Wulff

About Reg Wulff

Reg is a licensing officer with Northern Health and has his BA in Health Science. Previously, he worked as a Recreation Therapist with Mental Health and Addictions Services in Terrace as well as a Regional Tobacco Reduction Coordinator. Originally from Revelstoke, Reg enjoys the outdoor activities that Terrace offers, like mountain biking and fishing. Reg also likes playing hockey, working out, and creative writing. He is married and has two sons and believes strongly in a work/life balance as family time is important to him.



  1. Glenn Beach says:

    I applaud the efforts to assist Northerns in reducing and quitting their use of tobacco. However, I would also like to make note and highlight that I have provided service to a large group of Mental Health and Addiction clients over the years, many of whom have significant addiciton issues to street drugs. I have encountered many individuals who on countless occassions have refused to go to UHNBC to seek assistance for their substance use issues because they are not allowed to smoke in the Adult Withdrawal Management Unit and are not interested in the tobacco replacements offered. I think it is important to consider these folks and their needs as well. So because they are not interested in quitting smoking they are essentially targetted away from services that could assist them in substance withdrawal. Instead the cycle of addiction continues and they get to endure the high risk lifestyle of those involved in street drug use.

    • Hello Glenn,

      Thank you for your comment. You’ve identified a challenging issue. We are committed to quality patient care and the new Clinical Practice Standards help to create smoke-free environments for patients, families, staff, and community members. The Adult Withdrawal Management program does not require clients to withdraw from nicotine (many replacement options are provided) and the Smoke-Free Grounds policy is one tool to support staff to focus on safe, quality patient care.

      –Vince (Health Promotions)