As a world-class medical center, UAB Medicine is dedicated to the preservation of health and prevention of disease. In order to provide the best care and support to patients, UAB Medicine employees must be in the best health possible. For that reason, UAB Medicine is launching a tobacco-free hiring policy for all new hires on or after July 1, 2013.
“Tobacco use is a major cause of illness and death in our state,” says UAB Health System CEO Will Ferniany, Ph.D. “For more than 100 years, UAB Medicine has been dedicated to preserving health and preventing diseases in Birmingham and beyond. As health-care providers, UAB Medicine and the entities that comprise it should be role models for good health behaviors, and lead by example in the quest for good health. We believe one of the best ways to accomplish this is to encourage people to stop using tobacco products and, in anticipation of the 37th Great American Smokeout tomorrow, we are announcing our new hiring policy.”
The policy will extend to anyone applying for a UAB Medicine job after July 1, 2013 — this includes jobs with the UAB Health System, UAB Hospital, University of Alabama Health Services Foundation, The Kirklin Clinic, The Kirklin Clinic at Acton Road, UAB Callahan Eye Hospital, University of Alabama Ophthalmology Services Foundation, Triton Health Systems L.L.C./VIVA Health Inc. and Birmingham-area UAB Health Centers. The policy does not apply to the University of Alabama at Birmingham as a whole.
According to the new policy, tobacco use includes smoking, sucking/dipping, chewing or snuffing any tobacco product. Prospective employees will be tested for nicotine use as part of their pre-employment drug screening following a job offer. Those who test positive for nicotine use will not be hired.
“We care deeply for all members, and prospective members, of the UAB Medicine family, and as health-care providers we wanted to take a major step toward providing a healthier environment for employees, patients and hospital visitors,” Ferniany says. “Our intent is not to eliminate people from applying for positions with UAB Medicine, but rather to send the message that as the largest health-care provider in the state, we are committed to the health of our employees and all Alabamians.”
Each year in Alabama, 7,500 people die from tobacco-related illnesses and more than 800 non-smokers die from illnesses related to secondhand smoke, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health. More than 20 percent of Alabamians smoke and nearly 10 percent use smokeless tobacco.
The policy does not apply to current UAB Medicine employees or individuals hired prior to July 1, 2013 who smoke or use other forms of tobacco. For current employees, UAB Medicine is ramping up efforts to provide smoking and tobacco-cessation programs to help them achieve their best possible health.
“Our employees are the most valuable asset UAB Medicine has and their health and that of their families is very important to us,” Ferniany says. “Knowing that tomorrow is the Great American Smokeout, we are encouraging current members of the UAB Medicine family to take advantage of the many programs and services, including smoking-cessation classes, which we provide. They can visit the UAB Employee Wellness website for more details on all of these services.”
UAB Medicine is not the first health-care organization to adopt this type of policy. Hospitals and health systems in Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee and Texas also have stopped hiring people who use tobacco, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. This includes several nationally ranked health-care providers, such as the Baylor Health Care System, whose policy went into effect earlier this year, and Cleveland Clinic, which has had a tobacco-free hiring policy since 2007.