UPDATED: Hendrick Health System will no longer hire tobacco, nicotine users

Hendrick Hospital no longer hiring tobacco users

ABILENE, Texas - Hendrick Health System plans to no longer hire tobacco or nicotine users, officials announced Wednesday.

The change will become effective March 1.

In a news release, officials said Hendrick will join a "growing number of Texas hospitals" making the change.

Officials say this is a move toward being a role model for the community.

"The ultimate goal is really to promote wellness and set a good example for the patients and the community we serve," said Maribeth Bunn, RN and wellness director.

Currently, all new hires are given a drug test.

Beginning in March, the hospital will test for nicotine. If the results are positive, the offer of employment will be withdrawn.

"We do anticipate a decrease in applicants," said Susan Wade, director of human resources. "Currently, we have over 1,000 applicants per month. We think that the overall goal of improving the wellness of our employees and promoting that amongst patients and their families will outweigh that decrease of applicants."

Here's the entire Hendrick Health System news release:

Hendrick Health System will soon join a growing number of Texas hospitals in not hiring tobacco or nicotine users. In a move to be a role model for the community, Hendrick will no longer hire anyone using any type of nicotine products, effective March 1.

"We are committed to our community's healthcare, and believe we need to lead by example," said Tim Lancaster, president and CEO of Hendrick Health System. "By not hiring tobacco users we hope to encourage a healthy lifestyle to our current employees, as well as to our patients and their families."

According to the American Cancer Society, tobacco usage kills an estimated 443,000 Americans each year. The use of nicotine products is one of the leading causes of preventable and premature death; therefore, quitting tobacco/nicotine use can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Additionally, tobacco usage generates more than $95 billion in direct medical costs.

Under the new policy, a question will be added to the job application asking if an applicant uses tobacco/nicotine products. If the applicant indicates that they do, the application will be rejected. The applicant will be encouraged to consider taking steps to stop using nicotine and will be allowed to re-apply in six months.

As part of the current hiring process, all applicants are screened for illegal drug use. Beginning in March, an additional test will be included which will determine whether or not the applicant uses tobacco or nicotine products. If the results indicate a positive for nicotine, the conditional offer of employment will be withdrawn. The applicant can re-apply after six months from the positive test date.

"While this policy won't have a direct impact on our current employees, we hope it will encourage those nicotine users to stop their own tobacco usage," said Lancaster.

Hendrick Medical Center has been a smoke-free campus since 2007. Free smoking cessation classes are offered to the community.

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