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Tobacco Education in U.S. Respiratory Care Programs

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Introduction: Exposure to tobacco smoke impacts the onset or exacerbation of most respiratory disorders, and respiratory therapists are well positioned to identify tobacco use and provide cessation assistance. The purpose of this study was to characterize the level of tobacco cessation education provided to students in U.S. respiratory care training programs. Methods: A national survey of 387 respiratory care programs assessed the extent to which tobacco is addressed in required coursework, methods of instruction, perceived importance, and adequacy of current levels of tobacco education in curricula and perceived barriers to enhancing the tobacco-related education. Results: A total of 244 surveys (63.0% response) revealed a median of 165 min (IQR, 88-283) of tobacco education throughout the degree program. Pathophysiology of tobacco-related disease (median, 45 min) is the most extensively covered content area followed by aids for cessation (median, 20 min), assisting patients with quitting (median, 15 min), and nicotine pharmacology and principles of addiction (median, 15 min). More than 40% of respondents believed that latter 3 content areas are inadequately covered in the curriculum. Key barriers to enhancing tobacco training are lack of available curriculum time, lack of faculty expertise, and lack of access to comprehensive evidence-based resources. Nearly three-fourths of the respondents expressed interest in participating in a nationwide effort to enhance tobacco cessation training. Conclusions: Similar to other disciplines, enhanced tobacco cessation education is needed in respiratory care programs to equip graduates with the knowledge and the skills necessary to treat tobacco use and dependence.

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