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Webinar aims to get psychiatrists to treat smoking

Psychiatrists often disregard their patients' smoking. Online training for psychiatry residents could change that.
hand holding cigarette

A new web-based training program can help teach psychiatry residents how to assess and intervene with patients addicted to tobacco, according to a new study.

Psychiatrists often disregard their patients’ smoking even though tobacco use accounts for 50 percent of deaths among people with mental illness.

“Teaching psychiatry residents is a great way to change this national problem,” says Jill M. Williams, director of the addiction psychiatry division of at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, and lead author of the paper in the American Journal of Addictions.

“We know psychiatrists and behavioral health providers are not doing enough, and teaching the next generation of providers is an important step in increasing access to tobacco treatment services. This study shows that the live educational activities we have been delivering to professionals for years can be modified to a webinar format to reach bigger audiences like psychiatry residents.”

For the study, 152 psychiatric residents at 42 medical schools, many of whom knew little about tobacco use disorder, completed the online course. Many falsely believed that smoking cessation interferes with a patient’s ability to recover from other types of addiction despite substantial evidence to the contrary.

Before taking the course, many residents noted other obstacles that prevent psychiatrists from addressing patients’ tobacco use:

  • Patients with severe mental health issues have more immediate problems to address.
  • Many patients don’t have the motivation to quit.
  • It’s difficult for psychiatrists to find training.

After taking the online course, however, the residents demonstrated a high level of knowledge about tobacco use disorder and ways they can help patients quit smoking. Residents also reported feeling more motivated and prepared to address patients’ tobacco use.

The easy-to-implement course includes three one-hour sessions with direct links to additional resources and source materials and is based on live continuing education training the research group has conducted for behavioral health professionals since 2006. Topics come from US Public Health Service guidelines for clinical practitioners.

“Online training is ideal for introducing this type of instruction to graduate medical education across the globe, especially for an area that has been neglected in psychiatry and for which there are few skilled instructors,” Williams says.

Additional coauthors are from Rutgers and from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

Source: Rutgers University

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