For National Alcohol Screening Day, Nurses Have the Power to Change Health


AMHERST, Mass. –  Every year National Alcohol Screening Day raises awareness of the harmful effects of alcohol and drug abuse on individuals and families. As part of its new Power of Nursing to Change Health program, the University of Massachusetts Amherst College of Nursing is hosting a networking event with local area school nurses, school psychologists and nursing faculty on Tuesday, April 4 from 3:30-6:30 p.m. at the UMass Center at Springfield Tower Square.

Last year UMass Amherst received a three-year, $870,000 training grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to develop a training program for student nurses in Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT). The project is one of only 12 to be funded nationally. SBIRT is an approach to delivering early intervention and treatment to people with, or at-risk of developing alcohol and/or substance use disorders. The grant addresses the growing need for medical care providers working across a variety of service delivery settings to be trained in SBIRT. Student nurses apply these new skills in their community and medical/surgical rotations as part of a partnership with the Western Massachusetts Public Health Training Center, the Center for Health Promotion, University Health Services, and the Springfield and Chicopee public schools.

The April 4 event is a networking forum where nurses and other clinicians can share experiences and learn from one another as they refresh and build on their SBIRT skills. The College of Nursing will continue to offer training for nursing students, faculty, clinical preceptors, and other interested community partners.

“Nurses are the boots on the ground, they’re the first person who might be asking this kind of question about alcohol and drug use,” says Donna Zucker, associate dean of the College of Nursing. “And, nurses have a holistic approach. While they are taking a history, they are building rapport with the patient, building a relationship.”

School nurses fill this role for young people, she adds. They talk about many health education issues such as nutrition, home safety, bullying and violence in addition to substance use. “The nurse may be the first on the scene. If a child’s answers raise a flag, they report it to a superior who takes it from there,” says Zucker.

First held in 1999, National Alcohol Screening Day is an initiative of the National Institutes of Health, falling on the first Thursday of the first full week in April.