Working life: Anna Burns, HSE tobacco cessation service manager

Ideally I like to walk the dog and drop my oldest to school before heading to work at the Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital on the Western Road, Cork where Health Promotion and Improvement is based. 

I have four children aged eight to 15 so my husband drops the other three off. I arrive a few minutes early to get a head start on emails.


I have a team meeting. We have four smoking cessation officers, three in Cork, one in Kerry and they deliver a six-week standard treatment programme. Initial contact with a smoker who wants to quit is over the phone or face-to-face.

Some are referred to us by GPs and consultants and may not be ready to give up. The decision has to be their own. When they are ready to quit we are there to help. 


After coffee break, I follow up on brief interventions — day-long courses we organise for health professionals working as frontline staff. 

Our aim is keep tobacco cessation on the agenda by equipping nurses, doctors and others with the skills to broach the subject of quitting smoking with patients. 

The courses are run in different venues, from acute hospitals to the Lifetime Lab on the Lee Road. 


I go for my daily constitutional, either a brisk walk to Fitzgerald’s Park or a run into town for groceries. 


I have more meetings. There’s a lot of admin involved in this service and the role of administrative staff is vital. I also have reports to write up in on our smoking cessation programmes. 

The first date we set with service users is a quit date and we follow up with them for 12 months. 

We encourage the use of nicotine replacement therapy for eight weeks. 

If you stay off cigarettes for four months, you are categorised as having quit. 


Before I head home, I do some work on getting more campuses to sign up to being smoke-free. 

It’s not as simple as putting up a No Smoking sign. Everyone has to be on board, from staff, to service-users, to the taxi drivers who drop them off.


For downtime, I walk with my husband and dog, play tennis or go to the gym, in between ferrying the kids to different activities.

* Anna Burns is HSE tobacco cessation service manager, Cork and Kerry


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