The Need

The evidence-based practice of Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) can detect a substance use disorder at a low- or moderate-risk stage, or even before it begins.

Nurses are a key profession to use SBIRT in many settings. They often spend more time with patients than doctors. However, undergraduate and graduate nursing programs often spend less than three hours total on addressing substance use and addiction.

The Solution

In partnership with the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing, IRETA created and implemented an SBIRT training program for undergraduate nursing students. Six hours of in-class instruction and practice sessions including education during their junior year and refresher modules during their senior year prepared the students to use SBIRT in the field.

The program included including a trainer manual, “ring of knowledge” cards to help students retain knowledge and use as visual aids, handouts and PowerPoint presentations for educators, and lists of additional resources.

As well as creating a program for nursing students, IRETA made available a related online module for use in training faculty, clinical preceptors, and professional nurses about SBIRT.

The Results

Nursing students’ perceived attitudes toward patients who use alcohol became more positive. More than 90% of students strongly agreed or agreed that the training was relevant to their nursing careers and would help their patients. Participants also reported increased self-efficacy in responding to substance use among their patients.

During the three years of the grant, 572 junior nursing students received training as well as 30 faculty members.


Access the ATN SBIRT Material


The University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing has continued to use the curriculum for each class of nursing students. Going forward, graduates of the program will be equipped with SBIRT skills and more positive attitudes towards patients with at-risk substance use. Now, ATN SBIRT materials are available at the University of Pittsburgh’s website so that any educator may use them.