An evidence based alcohol screening, brief intervention and referral to treatment (SBIRT) curriculum for emergency department (ED) providers improves skills and utilization

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Emergency Medicine

Publication Date


Document Type



Alcoholism; *Curriculum; Education; Emergency Medicine; Evidence-Based Medicine; Health Personnel; Humans; Mass Screening; Mental Health Services; *Professional Competence; *Psychotherapy, Brief; *Referral and Consultation


Emergency Medicine


OBJECTIVE: Emergency Departments (EDs) offer an opportunity to improve the care of patients with at-risk and dependent drinking by teaching staff to screen, perform brief intervention and refer to treatment (SBIRT). We describe here the implementation at 14 Academic EDs of a structured SBIRT curriculum to determine if this learning experience improves provider beliefs and practices.

METHODS: ED faculty, residents, nurses, physician extenders, social workers, and Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) were surveyed prior to participating in either a two hour interactive workshops with case simulations, or a web-based program (www.ed.bmc.org/sbirt). A pre-post repeated measures design assessed changes in provider beliefs and practices at three and 12 months post-exposure.

RESULTS: Among 402 ED providers, 74% reported < 10 hours of prior professional alcohol-related education and 78% had < 2 hours exposure in the previous year. At 3-month follow-up, scores for self-reported confidence in ability, responsibility to intervene, and actual utilization of SBIRT skills all improved significantly over baseline. Gains decreased somewhat at 12 months, but remained above baseline. Length of time in practice was positively associated with SBIRT utilization, controlling for gender, race and type of profession. Persistent barriers included time limitations and lack of referral resources.

CONCLUSIONS: ED providers respond favorably to SBIRT. Changes in utilization were substantial at three months post-exposure to a standardized curriculum, but less apparent after 12 months. Booster sessions, trained assistants and infrastructure supports may be needed to sustain changes over the longer term.


Subst Abus. 2007;28(4):79-92.

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Substance abuse : official publication of the Association for Medical Education and Research in Substance Abuse


Edwin Boudreaux was an author on this paper as a member of the Academic ED SBIRT Research Collaborative. At the time of publication, Edwin Boudreaux was not yet affiliated with the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed Boudreaux is a member of Academic ED SBIRT Research Collaborative.

PubMed ID