Even in Tennessee …
Outliers soon will lose interest in the topic of hospitals refusing to hire those who smoke, chaw or otherwise deliver a nicotine buzz. It will be as normal and un-outlier-ish as the days when it was not unusual to light up in airplanes, movie theaters and, come to think of it, hospitals.
Beginning Feb. 1 Memorial Health Care System in Chattanooga, Tenn., will disqualify job seekers who test positive for nicotine in their system in a pre-employment screening. Applicants who test positive may have to wait six months before reapplying.
Memorial, a member of Denver-based Catholic Health Initiatives, is not the first healthcare organization to take such a step. Just a few weeks ago Outliers reported a similar move by Susquehanna Health in Williamsport, Pa. The Cleveland Clinic pioneered the idea back in 2007, joined later by Akron (Ohio) Children’s Hospital and Baptist St. Anthony Health System in Amarillo, Texas.
Let us take a moment, however, to observe this cultural shift arriving in Tennessee, one of the country’s top tobacco states for centuries. Tennessee farmers still produced 50 million pounds of tobacco last year, ranking third in the nation. Yet that’s about a third of the state’s yield 50 years ago.
Memorial President and CEO James Hobson says his organization sees the policy as part of a broader attempt to engender a healthy culture for its employees and the community, akin to its efforts to encourage fitness and the posting of nutrition facts in the cafeteria. “We think this is the right thing relative to our mission,” Hobson says.