“That question doesn’t get you anywhere with patients. What if they say no?” says Christine Savage, PhD, associate professor and director of the graduate health nursing program in the UC College of Nursing.
Savage is the editor of a new set of Web-based curriculum modules on alcohol abuse and alcoholism on track for classroom use at UC during fall 2009 and at nursing schools across the country.
The curriculum materials, geared toward the nursing profession, are being put together by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), an arm of the National Institutes of Health.
The NIAAA has similar curricula for colleges of medicine and social work. This new curriculum will allow nurse educators to teach nursing students ways to determine whether alcohol use is a factor in treatment. For example, a better way to determine a person’s alcohol use, Savage says, is to ask questions such as, “Do you sometimes drink beer, wine or other alcoholic beverages?” and if the answer is yes, “How many times in the past year have you had five (four for women) or more drinks in a day?”
“A large portion of admissions to hospitals are related directly or indirectly to alcohol use and there is not enough content in current nursing curriculum related to the prevention and treatment of alcohol use disorders,” she says.
With alcohol use prevalent across the U.S. population, Savage says it’s no longer a case of whether a person is an “alcoholic” but to what extent he or she uses alcohol, and does that use put them at risk for adverse health consequences.
All nurses, she says, need the basic knowledge to prevent and provide appropriate treatment in relation to alcohol use disorders and health consequences related to alcohol use. In addition, nurses can make a difference.
The evidence clearly shows that the use of brief intervention by health care providers is effective in reducing risky alcohol use.
“Eighty percent of the population uses alcohol at some point during their life and half are currently using alcohol,” she says.
“Most people are using alcohol responsibly, but even responsible use can impact your health. In addition, risky alcohol use (drinking more than the recommended limits) is a growing concern.
“According to NIAAA, about three in 10 U.S. adults are drinking at levels that increase their risk for physical, mental health and social problems,” Savage adds.
The new NIAAA modules for nursing can either be used to design an entire course around the subject or used individually to supplement current course materials.