Jamila Smith-Young graduated from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville with a degree in microbiology and began her career doing asthma research before interning with the pulmonary unit at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital. Eight years later, through a quality improvement project, she is changing the way the pulmonary division interacts with patients whose parents smoke.
While a student in the College of Nursing DNP Pediatric Acute Care Program, she noticed that a simple question routinely posed to the parents or caretakers of her pulmonary pediatric patients was being interpreted multiple ways.
“One question we ask is ‘Are there any smokers in the home?’ And the parents would say, ‘No, but we smoke outside,’ ” Smith-Young said. “So, are we asking the right questions when we see families? Part of what I’m trying to change is the way we approach and address all of that.”
A conference on smoking cessation she and a colleague attended with the American Academy of Pediatrics sparked the interest in the project. Smith-Young, along with her colleague, created materials and facilitated one-on-one training with staff members to increase knowledge of how an environment with smokers affects their patients. They focused not just on the negative effects of cigarette smoke, but secondhand and residual smoke as well.
“We have lots of patients in our area we see daily who have caregivers who smoke,” Smith-Young said. “I felt, as a division, we could do more with asking and helping families to quit, because smoking affects the person who is smoking, as well as the patient. A lot of families don’t realize that smoking can exacerbate asthma and lead to other issues, such as ear infections or bronchitis, which can affect the child.”
Smith-Young often works with pediatric patients who have bronchial pulmonary dysplasia, asthma, cystic fibrosis, and children with vents and tracheostomies, some of whom continue to use oxygen, diuretics, and heart monitors after they are discharged from the hospital.
By asking the right questions and practicing consistency with documentation and audits, Smith-Young and the division have been able to work with families who want to receive help with smoking cessation.
Offering quit line information, counseling, brochures, and appropriate paperwork to families, the division has helped them receive resources at no cost, including nicotine gum and patches. “Just doing more as providers in the health care setting can reduce the risks associated with smoking, as opposed to just asking and then moving on to take care of the patient,” Smith-Young said. “It really does affect readmission rates for kids who have asthma, whether you are smoking inside, outside, or in the car.”
Smith-Young said just in the last eight months, multiple parents have stopped smoking and have said they are grateful for the help.
She plans to expand the project, bringing it to the hospital side, working with respiratory therapists in incorporating smoking cessation counseling and the quit line for families of asthma patients who are hospitalized.
This month, Smith-Young became the first DNP graduate of the College of Nursing’s Pediatric Acute Care Program. She said she chose the program because of her exposure to the university as a nurse faculty preceptor.
“UT is a great program, I wanted to come to UT, being that I worked for the university in the College of Nursing and it is ranked in the Top 25 in DNP programs in the country,” Smith-Young said. “It definitely sparked an interest in applying and getting a degree from here, and I wanted to expand my knowledge and be more advanced in the area of nursing, so that I could be more aware of health policy and advocate for our patients and our community.”
Smith-Young will continue her work at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, while also giving back to the community. She plans to assist in bringing pediatrics to the scope of services offered at the Wellness & Stress Clinic of Memphis at the Healing Center Baptist Church. The clinic was the vision of her in-laws, who serve as the pastors of the church and collaborate with UTHSC on the clinic, which provides free health care services to adults in the Oakhaven community.
“I’m a big advocate in investing in our community and doing more to help the kids,” she said. “We have children from all walks of life who come through our doors, and in order to understand how to treat them, you have to understand where they come from.”