Building a Better Health Service


Dedicated smoker Pauline quits and declares it one of her best decisions

Pauline Ryan, Social Worker, MUH

Pauline Ryan, Social Worker, MUH

The New Year brings the prospect of new beginnings and for many people thinking of quitting smoking, it provides a new opportunity to succeed. For Pauline Ryan, a Social Worker at Mercy University Hospital Cork, her 2021 decision to finally quit  was one of the best she made last year:

“From a very young age, I began my journey as a smoker. When I joined the Social Work Department at MUH in 2008, I was a well seasoned, almost dedicated smoker. And I loved my cigarettes.”

But Pauline knew that the day would come that she was would have to stop:  “I entered the pre-contemplation stage many times and had many failed attempts at quitting smoking.  I had all the motivations – a young family, health and finances. But attempt after attempt, I would fail. I had all the professional understandings of addiction but I was never able to apply these to my own situation. 

“This continued until I reached the point where I have been a smoker for 25 years, all of my adult life. For many years I justified my smoking.  Many couldn’t understand why I smoked given that I work in a hospital and also given that I work with the Palliative Care services.  Last February, multiple factors aligned in my life and I decided 2020 was going to be the year when I quit smoking for good.

“I had become absolutely convinced that if I didn’t change my behaviour now, my fate would be sealed.  I felt that if I continued to smoke, then I would be dead in a short timeframe.  That may sound over dramatic but my father was an equally dedicated smoker. He died of a cardiac arrest at home - he was 50 years old and I was four.  My daughters are eight and five and I was determined that history would not repeat itself.”


For Pauline the timing was right for many reasons:  “MUH had begun its campaign to be a smoke free campus and the smoking cessation programme was rolled out.  With a little apprehension, I made contact with the programme and spoke with an amazing facilitator.  The first step was the completion of a comprehensive assessment of my smoking history.  After a detailed discussion/confession I was advised that I met the criteria for the WHO definition of having a chronic addiction.  This was a shock to hear.  Working as a social worker, I am well accustomed to coming across addiction but surely this didn’t apply to me?”

Pauline soon understood why all of her previous attempts had failed:

“Once this idea settled, we devised a plan and a programme, and I commenced with the nicotine replacement therapy.  The MUH programme has been outstanding. For the initial few weeks I had weekly telephone contact with my facilitator, who was incredibly supportive.  All of the nicotine replacement therapy was provided, free of charge from MUH, who were also outstanding.  The programme itself has been very structured to meet my needs, and it felt as if I couldn’t fail.  I can’t recommend the programme enough.”


Paying tribute to her colleagues in MUH from the Social Work and Palliative Care Departments, Pauline added: “I would like to thank them all. But of course the most incredible support of all has been from my husband and my two daughters and family.”

By the end of 2021 Pauline was over 300 days smoke free, stressing that it was “certainly one of the best decisions I ever made.”