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St. Francis Hospital's hiring policy goes smokeless

St. Francis Hospital, 34515 9th Ave. S., and all other Franciscan Health System medical facilities will employ a nicotine-free hiring policy beginning March 1. The policy is the latest in a series of efforts taken to create healthier communities where Franciscan operates. The policy only affects new hires. Several programs designed to help current employees quit using tobacco are already in place. - Jacinda Howard/The Mirror
St. Francis Hospital, 34515 9th Ave. S., and all other Franciscan Health System medical facilities will employ a nicotine-free hiring policy beginning March 1. The policy is the latest in a series of efforts taken to create healthier communities where Franciscan operates. The policy only affects new hires. Several programs designed to help current employees quit using tobacco are already in place.
— image credit: Jacinda Howard/The Mirror

Federal Way's St. Francis Hospital, part of Franciscan Health System, will soon hire only tobacco-free applicants.

Starting March 1, the hospital will begin turning away applicants who smoke, chew or use nicotine or tobacco in any other way. Franciscan Health System will implement the policy at its other hospitals: St. Clare in Lakewood; St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma; St. Elizabeth Hospital in Enumclaw; and St. Anthony Hospital in Gig Harbor. The policy includes Franciscan's medical, surgery, hospice, health and therapy clinics.

Promoting healthy communities

The hiring policy is the latest move Franciscan Health System has taken in recent years to be a leader in encouraging healthy communities.

"Our communities include not only the communities we serve, but our employees," Franciscan spokesman Gale Robinette said.

All of Franciscan's job applicants, once they receive a job offer but before they become employees, participate in a drug screening process. Starting next month, nicotine will be added to the list of screened substances. Applicants using nicotine will not be considered for employment. They may reapply for employment in six months.

The policy does not affect existing Franciscan employees. Several measures are already in place at Franciscan health facilities to discourage the use of tobacco. Franciscan campuses have been smoke-free, inside and outside, since 2006. The Breathe program supports staff members who are giving up tobacco products. Franciscan provides free and reduced-cost medications for employees who are trying to quit using tobacco products. Franciscan's Freedom from Tobacco program is a free weekly support group to help people in the community and Franciscan employees to stop using tobacco. These programs will continue.

There are approximately 1,005 employees at St. Francis Hospital. This includes full-time and part-time employees.

"Our mission calls us to create healthier communities," said Franciscan Chief Operating Officer Cliff Robertson in a prepared statement. "As part of fulfilling our mission, we are creating a culture within our employee community that encourages good health and supports well-being. We cannot in good conscience simultaneously be a champion for healthy communities and continue to hire people who smoke and use tobacco products."

Trend setter

Hiring nicotine-free staff is a trend being adopted nationwide by medical providers, Robinette said. Franciscan Health System is the first member of the Washington State Hospital Association to make employment contingent on being nicotine-free. The association is a membership organization representing community hospitals and health-related organizations. It provides management and analysis, information, advocacy and other services for its approximately 135 members.

The association has not taken a formal stance on Franciscan's new hiring policy, said spokeswoman Cassie Sauer, but the association does have a history of supporting efforts to curb tobacco use.

"It will create some really exciting conversations in our association," she said.

Franciscan does not expect the new policy to prevent qualified applicants from applying for jobs with the health care provider, Robinette said. Many people want to work for a company that promotes good health, he said. For this reason, Franciscan attracts applicants from across the region, state and nation, Robinette said.

"It is possible that this will simply enhance our status as a destination employer," he said.

Insurance savings

In addition to creating a healthier work environment, the hiring policy is expected to save Franciscan Health System money on medical insurance for its employees. An employee who smokes can cost an employer an additional $4,000 a year or more in medical costs and lost productivity, said Dave Lawson, Franciscan Health Systems human resources vice president, in a prepared statement.

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