If you suspect an alcohol problem, use these tools

While assessing a patient, your gut feeling may be that he or she has an alcohol problem. But do you lack the resources to appropriately screen these patients and intervene as needed?

The Emergency Department Alcohol Education Project: Screening, Brief Intervention, Referral, and Treatment web site offers free tools to improve screening and care of alcoholic patients in the ED. The ED offers a "teachable moment" to encourage change in at-risk drinking behavior, says Judith Bernstein, PhD, associate professor of maternal and child health at Boston University’s School of Public Health, and co-developer of the site.

The site gives you a protocol to screen patients in the ED, developed with the realities of overcrowding, lack of privacy, extreme time pressures, and multitasking in mind, says Bernstein. (Click on "Brief Intervention Techniques.") "A rationale is provided for going beyond the ED’s traditional treat-and-street’ mission to address at-risk and dependent drinking," she says. "Techniques and strategies are offered that have been shown to be feasible and effective in the ED setting." Links to other educational materials allow you to compare different types of interventions.

ED nurses around the country are finding creative ways to use the site’s resources, reports Bernstein. "In some EDs, the slides and cases on the web site have formed the basis for a formal workshop," she says. "Other ED nurses have gotten together in informal study groups to review the materials and practice role-playing using the tools provided."

Vital Signs

Site: Emergency Department Alcohol Education Project: Screening, Brief Intervention, Referral, and Treatment

Address: www.ed.bmc.org/sbirt

Contact: Judith Bernstein, PhD, Associate Professor, Maternal and Child Health, Boston University, School of Public Health, 715 Albany St., Talbot Building, West Wing, Fifth Floor, Boston, MA 02118. Telephone: (617) 638-4484. E-mail: jbernste@bu.edu.