'Tobacco-Free Environment' Coming to Sentara Virginia Beach Hospitals & Outpatient Facility
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'Tobacco-Free Environment' Coming to Sentara Virginia Beach Hospitals & Outpatient Facility 

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Virginia Beach, VAJune 4, 2007 – It took a diagnosis of lung cancer to force Kim Schmidt to quit smoking for good. A clinical nurse II in the emergency department at Sentara Virginia Beach General, Schmidt started smoking in high school in 1969. She tried twice to quit using nicotine patches, including a year straight. But when she put her daughter on a plane for the Peace Corps in 2000, Schmidt started smoking again on the way home. She smoked until January 10, 2006, “Jan-Ten” as she calls it, the day, “my entire life changed.”

Schmidt had a lung x-ray to see if a persistent cough was pneumonia. The scan discovered a tumor, five centimeters, huge in cancer terms and very likely stage 4.

“As a nurse, I know the survival rate for lung cancer is dismal,” Schmidt says. “The worst part is discovering a limit on your lifetime.”

She smoked her final cigarettes on the night of her diagnosis.

“I was very lucky,” Schmidt says.

A lobectomy removed the tumor, which, miraculously, had not spread. Schmidt is cancer free, but will need PET scans every six months to be certain it does not return.

Schmidt joins tobacco cessation volunteers
“If I can reach one more person who quits,” Schmidt says, “It’s worth every minute of my time.”

Schmidt is joining other volunteers at Sentara Virginia Beach General who are training as tobacco cessation facilitators. They will conduct a series of workshops to help fellow employees, their families and community members quit tobacco use prior to implementation of the Tobacco Free Environment initiative (TFE) on the Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital campus. All tobacco use will be banned after January 1st, 2008, including in cars on parking lots.

Jeff Hartenberg, director of cardiac services at Sentara Virginia Beach General, has a clinical background in respiratory therapy. Yet, he smoked until 15 years ago. Hartenberg has joined other volunteers training as tobacco cessation facilitators.

“I’ve been through the process of quitting,” Hartenberg says. “I’d like to share what worked for me with others trying to quit.”

TFE to focus on Sentara’s Mission – We Improve Health Every Day
Hospitals see the effects of tobacco every day in heart disease, respiratory ailments and numerous types of cancer. Tobacco, smoked or spit, is a significant cause of preventable disease.

“It makes perfect sense for hospitals to ban all forms of tobacco,” says Ray Troiano, M.D., vice president and administrator of Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital. “The most significant thing we can do to improve health is to create an environment that encourages people to stop using tobacco.”

The Tobacco Free Environment initiative better aligns Beach General with Sentara’s mission statement; “We Improve Health Every Day.”

The slogan for the TFE campaign is, “Live the Mission – Be Tobacco Free!”

Diplomacy, education to be TFE focus
“This isn’t about punishing or embarrassing tobacco users, “Dr. Troiano adds. “This is a positive demonstration of concern for the health of everyone using our campus.”

Smokers will be asked, politely, to put out all smoking materials on the campus, including in parked cars. Those chewing tobacco or pinching snuff will be asked to dispose of it. Nicotine replacement will be available for short term use while visitors are on the campus. Educational materials and tobacco cessation information will be offered.

“All tobacco products cause cancer,” Dr. Troiano says, “of the lung, stomach, liver, mouth and gums. “I’m a neurologist and I know it can even affect blood flow to the brain.

“Smoking can also cause heart disease and emphysema,” Troiano continues. “It is a hospital’s mission to help prevent acute and chronic diseases and stopping the use of tobacco is step one.”

TFE movement growing among nation’s hospitals
In neighboring North Carolina, 67 hospital campuses have gone tobacco-free and 29 more plan to do so on July 4th. The Duke Endowment has awarded the North Carolina Hospital Foundation a $600,000 grant to achieve 100% tobacco-free campuses by 2009.

Sentara Bayside Hospital and Sentara Princess Anne will also go tobacco-free on January 1, 2008. Here in Virginia, Sentara Virginia Beach General and Sentara Bayside Hospital will become only the sixth and seventh hospitals in Virginia to go tobacco-free.
Find out more about Sentara's "Get Off Your Butt: Stay Smokeless for Life" four-week program for people who want to quit smoking.


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