Article Summary: An Environmental Scan of the Role of Nurses in Preventing Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders

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The authors of this article looked at the role of nurses in preventing alcohol use in patients perceived to be at-risk for an alcohol-exposed pregnancy. The authors examined the knowledge, skills, and attitudes of nurses in this role, along with areas to improve how they can help prevent prenatal alcohol exposure and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).

There is great opportunity for nurses to connect with their patients, especially young women who may be at risk of having an alcohol-exposed pregnancy. However, there is a gap in the level of education nurses receive on alcohol use during pregnancy, as well as a lack of guidelines put in place describing their role in supporting their patients and preventing FASD.

The authors described four main themes: 

  1. Effectiveness of nurse intervention
  • Studies showed less drinking in patients who had a conversation with a health-care professional about their alcohol use (brief intervention)
  • Conversations/interventions by nurses were the most effective in decreasing alcohol use in patients
  1. Knowledge, skills, and attitudes
  • Training and educating nurses on how to screen for and help patients at-risk improved the attitude and confidence of nurses
  • Nurses agreed that training is important for their job
  1. Perceived barriers to dealing with patients who are at-risk
  • Not enough time or training
  • Poor reactions from patients
  • Training is not specific to nurses
  1. Gaps, opportunities, and suggestions for practice
  • Nurses expressed that there is not enough education on alcohol and healthy pregnancies
  • Knowledge on alcohol exposed pregnancy is important for supporting patients
  • Limited guidelines on how nurses should talk to their patients about alcohol use


  • Create a set of guidelines that all nurses can use on how to encourage alcohol-free pregnancies
  • Make sure nurses are given tools specific to address their target population
  • Provide training to improve brief intervention skills
  • Give out fact sheets and educational materials on pregnancy and alcohol use that nurses can explain to their patients

Take-Home Message

This study showed that there is a huge opportunity to improve knowledge and skills, and to provide further training and education to nurses, so that they can feel prepared to support their patients and help prevent alcohol exposed pregnancies. Nursing organizations are starting to work with the health care system to provide the tools and resources needed in order to improve intervention strategies, as well as to provide the best support possible to expecting mothers to help prevent FASD.

For additional reports and resources, please see:

Doorways to Conversation

Brief Intervention on Substance Use with Girls and Women

Brief Interventions with Girls and Women

Information for Service Providers

For more information:

Authors: Ann M. Mitchell, PhD, RN, AHN-BC, FIAAN, FAAN, Diane K. King, PhD, Brayden Kameg, BSN, Holly Hagle, PhD, Dawn Lindsay, PhD, Bridget L. Hanson, PhD, Irene Kane, PhD, MSN, RN, CNNA, EP-C, Kathy Puskar, DrPH, RN, FAAN, Susan Albrecht, PhD, RN, CRNP, FAAN, Carolyn Shaputnic, RNC, MPH, Becky R. Porter, MS, LPC,
Alexandra E. Edwards, MA, and Emily Knapp, BA

Journal: Issues in Mental Health Nursing


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