Taking on Substance Abuse in the ER: The Story of a Nurse Driven SBIRT Project

Tuesday, 13 July 2010: 3:45 PM

Gary Dean Parker, PhD, MS, BSN
Research and Education, Mercy Health Center, Oklahoma City, OK
Linda Theresa Fanning, BSN, RN, MS
Nursing Administration, Mercy Health Center, Oklahoma, OK

Learning Objective 1: Identify what SBIRT is and how it can be used in ERs and Clinics to help patients who may have issues related to substance abuse.

Learning Objective 2: Discuss the financial impact of substance abuse within the community and how SBIRT can save both the community,and hospital money and resources.


Every year 7.6 Million Americans with substance abuse disorder will visit an ER. However, few of these who are at risk or soon to be at risk individuals will be identified so they can be referred for help.  The purpose of this presentation is to share with participants how nurses at a 300 bed Magnet hospital implemented a successful Screening, Brief Intervention, Referral and Treatment (SBIRT) program within their Emergency Room providing services to this often overlooked population.


Following IRB approval, the SBIRT training began for ER staff with a focus on risk and how to target individuals who might be at risk of developing or already having a substance use disorder. The training also concentrated on opportunities to help individuals understand hazardous use while helping them reduce or eliminate these destructive behaviors. 

Results: 1856 screens in the ER reveled 384 individuals who were identified as being at risk or greater for substance abuse disorders. Brief interventions lasting 5 – 10 minutes were performed and in some cases referrals to alcohol and drug rehab center were provided. Follow up shows an overall positive experience for the individuals, changes in their behavior associated with alcohol and drug use as well as insight into their substance abuse disorders.
Conclusion: While substance abuse disorders were once thought of as the domain of addiction specialist, it has moved to the forefront of nursing.  More nurse driven studies need to be done to address this growing issue.