Emergency Departments Institute Alcohol Screening, Intervention Process

Beginning April 10, National Alcohol Screening Day, 360 nurses in emergency departments nationwide will begin using the Emergency Nurses Association's (ENA) alcohol screening and intervention tool kit designed to address alcohol use problems with patients. Studies have shown that the Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) procedure can be effective in reducing patients' alcohol consumption.

A study reported in the December 2007 issue of the Annals of Emergency Medicine found that emergency department (ED) patients who underwent a regimen of SBIRT reported lower rates of risky drinking at the three-month follow-up than those who received only written information about reducing their drinking.

SBIRT in the emergency department is a procedure by which health care workers screen patients for alcohol use and take advantage of the "teachable moment" to provide a brief intervention. This is designed to motivate patients who exhibit unhealthy drinking behaviors to cut back or quit drinking, or to accept a referral for further assessment and treatment. All of these 360 emergency nurses have made a formal commitment to the ENA to begin an official program based on the new ENA SBIRT tool kit. ENA has distributed these tool kits free of charge to institutions across the country.

"When people come to the emergency department with an alcohol or drug-related illness or injury, it is a unique moment when a message of curtailed or discontinued consumption can be very effective," said Eric Christensen, RN, BSN, CEN. "As nurses, we need to be prepared to take advantage of that moment and the ENA SBIRT tool kit helps us do that. It gives hospitals the materials they need to train their nurses in this potentially life-saving process."

The development of the ENA SBIRT implementation tool kit was financially supported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The tool kit includes a health care professional manual explaining the goals and concepts of SBIRT, a laminated pocket guide for quick reference to screening questions and patient assessment, an interactive training video on DVD, and role-plays. For more information on the tool kit, visit www.ena.org/ipinstitute/SBIRT/default.asp.

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