The Acceptability and Feasibility of Screening for Alcohol and Drug Misuse in a Hospital Emergency Department

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Abstract

Objectives:

Screening and brief intervention (SBI) is an evidence-based technique for reducing harmful consumption of alcohol and other drugs, which has been shown to be effective in Emergency Departments (EDs). The feasibility of SBI in the ED, however, remains contentious and no studies have been conducted on this topic in a New Zealand ED.

Materials and Methods:

This study recruited 8 experienced ED nurses who attempted to provide SBI, using the ASSIST-Lite tool, to as many of their patients as possible over one calendar month. All nurses participated in a comprehensive 1-day training workshop on the administration and interpretation of the ASSIST-Lite and linked brief intervention.

Results:

Only 46 (11.79%) of the 390 eligible patients were given the opportunity to participate over the data collection period. Analysis of the data showed there was a significant, negative correlation between the number of patients in the ED and the average number of screens that were performed by the nurses, and that the number of screens waned immediately after SBI training. Following the data collection period, the nurse participants were interviewed about their experience. These interviews revealed 3 main themes that contextualized the willingness to, but inherent difficulty of, administering the SBI within the ED environment.

Conclusions:

High patient-to-nurse ratios in the ED currently preclude nurses from providing consistent SBI to all eligible patients; however, there are several practical considerations highlighted here that might help nurses increase the participation rate.

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