Home care visiting nurses and those working in a therapeutic group home expressed concerns about their inadvertent exposure to secondhand smoke when caring for patients who live where cigarettes or tobacco products are used. The American Lung Association Fact Sheet on Secondhand Smoke Exposure cites the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classification of secondhand smoke as a cause of human cancer. Secondhand smoke causes approximately 3,400 lung cancer deaths and 22,700 to 69,600 heart disease deaths among adult nonsmokers in the United States each year (American Lung Association, 2009). For this study, home care nurses and those working in a therapeutic group home for the mentally ill in Augusta, Maine, were interviewed. This report describes their exposure and how secondhand smoke can be eliminated with minimal disruption to patient care. The interviewed nurses discussed the repeated exposures they experienced while caring for multiple smoking patients in residences that included apartment buildings and group homes and while transporting patients with private automobiles in which the use of cigarettes, cigarillos, cigars, pipes, and tobacco products can be common. Concerns about secondhand smoke exposures frequently focused on the unpleasant smoke odor retained on clothes and nursing equipment when people smoke during a patient visit. Protective actions also were reported. Strategies for action are discussed.
Juliana L'Heureux, BS, RN, MHSA, is Executive Director of the Maine Association of Mental Health Services in Augusta, Maine and has 15 years of experience in home healthcare nursing and administration.
Address for correspondence: Juliana L'Heureux, BS, RN, MHSA, 45 Memorial Circle, Suite 103, Augusta, ME 04330 (firstname.lastname@example.org).