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Nurses to ‘counsel’ patients about alcohol misuse

Nurses in Wales are to be trained to talk to binge drinkers about the consequences of their behaviour as part of routine practice.

An initiative, called “Have a Word”, was unveiled last week to try and stem the increase in hospital admissions resulting from alcohol-related injuries and illnesses.

Cardiff University has worked with the Welsh government and Public Health Wales to develop the campaign, which is based on the theory that opportunistic brief interventions can be effective in helping people realise they have a problem with alcohol.

All trauma and maxillofacial clinic nurses will be trained to screen patients for alcohol misuse and to deliver brief interventions for those patients identified as drinking at hazardous levels. A two-hour training course had been developed, which has been accredited by the Royal College of Nursing.

The university’s violence and society research group trialed the idea with nurses who were removing stitches caused by alcohol-related injuries. It found being spoken to about drinking led to a quarter of patients reducing the amount of alcohol they consumed in the long term.

Professor Jonathan Shepherd, director of the violence and society research group, described the intervention as a “structured conversation between the patient and the nurse, known to motivate the patient to change their drinking behaviour”.

“The aims are to prompt the patient to recognise the harm which their drinking has caused, especially the wound being treated; to review their drinking; to set themselves drinking limits and to make and act on decisions to reduce their hazardous drinking,” he said.

“The initiative establishes screening and brief interventions as a routine part of nursing practice in Wales,” he added.

The campaign was launched in the Temple of Peace in Cardiff by Lesley Griffiths, minister for health and social services in Wales.

She said: “Every week in Wales, 1,200 hospital admissions are attributed to alcohol. We know the cost to the NHS in Wales and the cost to people’s health is enormous. I am delighted to launch this campaign.”

Readers' comments (8)

  • oh please, can't nurses just get on with the job of nursing and leave the 'counseling' to professionals? After a recent hospital admission and a nurse suggesting I had a 'problem' with my painkillers, I think they are ill equipped and make poor judgements.
    If a patient has a problem with alcohol, they need professional help, IF they choose to do something about it, if not then you will only make things worse by blundering in where angels fear to tread...for good reason!

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  • I wonder how nurses are going to cope with emergencies and getting any routine work done at all in the future. they will be too busy screening and "counselling" and offering CBT for child abuse, dementia, obesity, alcohol and drug abuse and depression - have I left anything out? Hopefully these will not all be in the same patient!


    Jack/Jill of all trades and master of none but at least they may be able to drop some of their other more traditional roles such as box ticking, nanny, doctors' handmaiden, plumber, electrician, washer, cleaner, rounder, manager, porter, flower girl, tea lady, waitress, supervisor, matron, sister, pharmacist and whatever else they try to pack into an eight hour shift.

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  • forgot teacher/educator from above list and why is 'counsel' in the title in inverted commas? could it be because they are not proper trained counsellors.

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  • Oh dear. I am a counsellor (and incidentally a registered nurse - still working). Please leave the counselling to those of us that are trained. Would you (as a NMC registrant) go into another area of practice for which you were not trained, most sensible nurses would not. Please let nurses do what they do well.

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  • one of the sad problems is that nurses used to offer a lot more psychological support to patients in various domains such as cancer and were very good at it but presumably this became more specialised with the vogue for so-called trained counsellors and psychologists. the role of nurses is forever changing with interesting tasks being taken away from them and others dumped on them which nobody else wants.

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  • tinkerbell

    'Having a word' is not the same as counselling. The word counselling is used too loosely. You should be trained if you are a counsellor.

    So on top of everything else get nurses to do absolutely everything. Why?

    Because they have cut back on alcohol and detox services provided in Mental Health where counselling was previously provided.

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  • Oh dear. Another fluffy article and silly headline which has led so many commentators to the wrong conclusion. I think that it would be good to hear from any colleagues who were actually part of the study.

    A couple of years ago, I went on a 'Brief Intervention' course with other nurses and health professionals from a variety of settings. I have to admit, after 30 years in the job, I was sceptical. I think I'm pretty effective in my patient interactions. But as it was run 'In House', it was free. So off I trotted. Got to say, it was helpful and relevant to what I and many do on a daily basis. There was no nonsenical jargon. It isn't about counselling at all. It reinforces what you already know and provides ideas and guidance that might help you do it better, if you want use it your practice. Since when did health promotion cease to be an inportant part of a nurse's job?

    This is about using the opportunities presented to us whilst we do our job to do a bit more effective health promotion and sign-posting, if necessary. WE are professionals. We should be doing this anyway. NO ONE is asking us to behave like trained counsellors.

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  • Anonymous | 10-Jan-2013 6:32 pm

    from Anonymous | 10-Jan-2013 2:50 pm

    '... why is 'counsel' in the title in inverted commas? could it be because they are not proper trained counsellors.'

    ah, your explanation might help answer my question above as to why 'counsel' is in inverted commas in the title. True there is no further mention, as far as I can see, in the article. It is very easy to be misled by titles when reading material quickly. Thank you for pointing it out.

    It reminds me of an article I once wrote, which completely lost its raison d'être through NT editors knowing best and changing my title and replacing it with an incidental phrase totally out of context from my text. I have never written anything for them since, especially since the time when I spent hours puzzling over corrections made and painstakingly rechecking references after it had been peer reviewed and pulled to pieces only to confirm I was correct in the first place and they were wrong!

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