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 Patricia Folan, RN, CNP, CTTS (Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist)

Patricia Folan, RN, CNP, CTTS
Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist

What is your current position?

Currently, I am the director of the Center for Tobacco Control at Northwell Health system on Long Island in New York. Our program provides direct tobacco cessation services to employees of our health system as well as members of the community. We also provide education to health care providers about the evidence-based practice of treating tobacco dependence, as well as education to the community (including adults, teens, college students, and children) about the hazards associated with tobacco use. Lastly, we work to facilitate systems change by communicating and advocating with health care organizational leaders to ensure that all patients are screened and treated for tobacco use.

What are you passionate about in your work?

My passion has become tobacco dependence coaching for our program participants. Seeing the change that occurs, physically, emotionally, and socially, when a person reaches their goal to quit smoking or other tobacco use is very inspiring to me. Even when an individual relapses, working with them to meet the challenge of making another quit attempt fuels my passion for this work. 

Tell us about a memorable patient or student that you worked with or a memorable experience in your nursing career.

So many patients stand out, however more recently in my current work one patient who enrolled in our program is very memorable. He is a member of law enforcement in NYC. He was exposed to the horrendous air quality at Ground Zero after the events of 9/11. He was also a 2 pack a day smoker. He has a daughter with asthma. Consequently, he had great motivation to quit but had not been successful on his own. We were so thrilled to work with him and see him achieve his goal. Since quitting, he has ran in 3 NYC marathons and often says that he feels better today at 48 years old then he did when he was in his 20's and still smoking.

Also, since many practitioners do not encourage individuals with behavioral health disorders to quit smoking, I find it particularly satisfying to be able to provide cessation services and additional support to our patients who have behavioral health disorders.

Tell us about your latest or favorite research or clinical project.

My team's latest research project involved the inclusion of text messaging for those enrolled in our program. The study findings indicated that those who accepted the text messaging were more likely to attend class and were more likely to quit. We are always looking for ways to improve the success of the participants. I will be presenting this study at the ATS conference this year.

Tell us about your family (2 and/or 4 legged) and how you spend your leisure time (yes, hopefully you have leisure time).

I have a terrific husband, 2 sons, a daughter-in-law and most recently a new grandson! In addition, one year ago we adopted our puppy Belle.

For exercise, I like to golf, swim, and walk. A few months ago I started wearing a fitbit which has really kept me motivated and I was able to lose 10 pounds.

How has your view of nursing changed over the years?

When I first began by nursing career, I was a Pediatric nurse. I thought I would stay in Pediatrics forever, but overtime I became involved in wellness and eventually developed a program with other nurse practitioners to help our employees and community members quit smoking. I think nurses have always been great health educators but this program has taught be to be a better health coach, working together with patients to assist them in reaching their goals.

As a nurse I never thought that I would have the opportunity to start a new program, and a new department within our health system. The program has received much respect and support from administrators and the medical community. I always encourage other nurses to take advantage of expanding opportunities in nursing and let their ideas be heard. 

How long have you been a member of ATS?

10 years.

Do you have a mentor who has helped you?

I have had many mentors over the years, including when I was a bedside nurse and in the outpatient arena. As I pursued my Masters in Nursing Education and my Doctor of Nursing Practice degree, I was also lucky to have mentors from academia.

Within the ATS, I was fortunate to work with Mary Ellen Wewers, PhD when the ATS Tobacco Action Committee was in its infancy. Her dedication and commitment to the comprehensive treatment of tobacco dependence and the need to elevate this topic within ATS provided the impetus for the development and amazing work of this committee.

What is the value of your membership in ATS?

I have learned so much from being a member of ATS. Through my participation in the ATS Tobacco Action Committee (vice-chair), I have had the opportunity to work with several tobacco control advocates, clinicians, and researchers; and to be involved in several Public Health initiatives related to tobacco control. I have also had the opportunity to publish articles with the collaboration of this group.

I am also a member of the ATS Patient and Family Education Committee and have contributed tobacco control documents to the Patient Education Series on the ATS website.

In addition, working with the Nursing assembly I have had the opportunity to read and evaluate research studies submitted by nurses from around the world for presentation at the annual conferences. I am always encouraged to see such amazing work from my nurse colleagues.