Hospitals around the country have found a new way to deal with smokers — not hiring them.
The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania is considering a policy of no longer hiring smokers, according to HUP spokeswoman Susan Phillips.
“We are committed to having a safe and healthy environment for all of our employees and are concerned with the health impacts of smoking,” Phillips said.
While an official decision has yet to be reached on the policy, Phillips said the hospital expects to reach a decision by the end of the academic year.
The policy would not impact current hospital employees who smoke, though HUP “encourages them to take advantage of classes, help and information on quitting smoking,” Phillips said.
Should HUP adopt the new hiring policy, it would join an increasing number of hospitals and other medical facilities who have stopped hiring smokers, according to a recent article in The New York Times.
These policies raise questions of fairness for Patricia Eakin, president of the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals.
“I think not hiring somebody because they have a habit that is perfectly legal is unfair and not right,” said Eakin, who is an emergency room nurse at Temple University Hospital.
Eakin likewise worried that the trend could be taken too far.
“Where does it stop?” she said. “If you’re talking about banning hiring them because they have an unhealthy habit, what about all the other unhealthy things people do?”
Instead, Eakin supports policies of “encouraging people not to smoke and trying to support them in smoking cessation activities.”
Though she does not support prohibiting the hiring of smokers, Eakin does believe that it compromises credibility when health professionals smoke, she said.
“It sends the wrong message to your patients and undermines your moral authority when you’re trying to counsel them to stop smoking when you smoke yourself,” Eakin said.
HUP’s current smoking policy prohibits smoking in any hospital facilities, though employees who do smoke can frequently be found along Spruce Street smoking during their breaks.
For students who have to walk down Spruce in order to get to class, the presence of smokers can be “obnoxious,” College freshman Whitney Kite said.
“I think it’s ridiculous and unacceptable that they’re nurses and they’re smoking,” Kite said.
College freshman Brigid Byrnes echoed Kite’s irritation toward having to walk past the group of smokers. Byrnes likewise expressed concerns as to the health risks of having hospital employees smoking.
“Cigarette smoke sticks to clothes and hair,” Byrnes said. “They wear their scrubs out to smoke, and it’s not like they change before going back in.”
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