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Clin Nurse Spec. 2006 Jul-Aug;20(4):190-8; quiz 199-200.

Development of an alcohol withdrawal protocol: CNS collaborative exemplar.

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Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center, Phoenix, Ariz. 85338, USA.



The purpose of this process improvement project was to develop an Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome (AWS) management protocol for acute care.


The prevalence of alcohol abuse in our society presents challenges for health professionals, and few nurses have received formal education on the identification and treatment of AWS, which has frequently resulted in ineffective, nonstandardized care. However, nurses practicing in medical-surgical, emergency, trauma, and critical care settings must be astute in the assessment and management of AWS. DESIGN/BACKGROUND/RATIONALE: Following an analysis of existing management protocols, a behavioral health clinical nurse specialist was asked to lead a work team composed of physicians, pharmacists, and nurses to develop a new evidence-based alcohol withdrawal protocol for acute care.


By implementing a standardized assessment tool and treatment protocol, clinical nurse specialists empowered nursing staff with strategies to prevent the serious medical complications associated with AWS. FINDINGS/OUTCOMES: The development and integration of a safe and effective treatment protocol to manage AWS was facilitated by collaborative, evidence-based decision making.


Clinical experience and specialty expertise were integrated by clinical nurse specialists skilled in group dynamics, problem-solving, and the implementation of change. Improving care of patients in AWS is an exemplar for clinical nurse specialist roles as change agent and patient advocate.

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