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Competency-based SBIRT training for health-care professionals: nursing and social work students


Most health-care professional training programs lack educational curricula on substance use disorders and strategies for early intervention or referral to treatment. The University of Missouri-Kansas City Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (UMKC-SBIRT) training project educates baccalaureate nursing, advanced practice nursing, and master’s of social work students through didactics threaded throughout coursework; role-plays with classmates and faculty; standardizes patient practice; and offers clinical experience to help students achieve competency.


In year one of the training grant, students completed surveys prior to, immediately after, and 30 days after SBIRT training. Surveys covered attitudes and knowledge. Skills were assessed by expert coding of an audiotaped interaction with a standardized patient actor using an SBIRT fidelity scale. Qualitative feedback regarding training experience, knowledge, and attitudes was collected at post-training focus groups.


Students showed increased knowledge of SBIRT, improved perceptions toward working with patients who use substances, increased comfort in dealing with substance use issues, and progress in developing skills to provide SBIRT interventions.


Training on SBIRT can be readily implemented into nursing and social work education, improving future health professionals’ perceptions and providing a valuable skill through which they can help patients lead healthier lives.


This work was supported by grant TI025355 from the Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

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Correspondence to Heather J Gotham.

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This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

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Gotham, H.J., Knopf-Amelung, S., Krom, L. et al. Competency-based SBIRT training for health-care professionals: nursing and social work students. Addict Sci Clin Pract 10 (Suppl 1), A14 (2015).

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