1. Haycock, Camille MS, FNP, CNS, CCRN
  2. Phillips, Susan MSN, RN, BC

Article Content


The collaborative efforts of 2 clinical nurse specialists (CNSs) in developing a hospital-wide alcohol withdrawal protocol will be described. A partnership between a Critical Care and Behavioral Health CNS targeted both the prevention and therapeutic care of patients with, or at risk for, Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome (AWS).



The prevalence of alcohol abuse in our society transcends acute care institutions.



Nurses practicing in medical, surgical, emergency, trauma, and critical care settings must be astute in the assessment and management of the AWS.



CNS review of evidence-based findings and analysis of existing management protocols was undertaken with staff nurses to foster their engagement in managing this clinical scenario. Major components of CNS consultation included awareness enhancement, education, identification of risk factors, offering recommendations for patient assessment, and outlining appropriate pharmacologic and behavioral interventions.



The incidence and intensity of AWS can be influenced by CNS intervention. Our institution's interdisciplinary collaboration created an effective and safe protocol to promote patient comfort and the resolution of disturbing biopsychological symptom distress. By devising a standardized assessment tool and treatment algorithm, nursing staff can be empowered to employ sound strategies to prevent medical complications associated with AWS.



Despite its prominence, few nurses have received formal education on the identification and treatment of AWS. This has frequently resulted in ineffective, nonstandardized care of patients with this syndrome. The development and integration of a safe and effective treatment protocol to manage AWS can be facilitated by collaborative, evidence-based decision making.