Emergency staff 'lack resources to treat intoxicated patients'
Medical and nursing staff who work in busy Emergency Departments (ED) do not have the resources to provide full care to patients who come in intoxicated.
Research carried out by a master's student from the School of Nursing & Midwifery at NUI Galway examined the perceptions of doctors and nurses towards intoxicated patients who present at EDs.
The main concerns were that these patients were not receiving the attention they required, and a lack of vital follow-up care. Yvonne Conway, a lecturer at the School of Nursing and Midwifery who supervised the study, said the findings showed ED staff were left feeling "ill-equipped" and "frustrated" at the difficulties in meeting the needs or fully assessing the injury risks of intoxicated patients.
"There is a belief that EDs are filled with alcohol-related injuries and that this is causing the backlogs. It is not. It's resources, space and bed capacity.
"Intoxicated patients are a cohort of complex patients who require a lot of time to assess and manage in a comprehensive and safe manner. In the current environments of many of our EDs, this is becoming increasingly difficult and as a result these patients may be negatively perceived as a burden and not given the specific holistic care they require," she added.
The study findings suggest staff feel they don't have the resources, time or education to address the specific issues these patients have, beyond caring for their immediate medical needs.
The real issue of prevention, health education and follow-up care is neglected, she added.
Concern was expressed regarding the quality of care these clients receive and participants believed that more holistic evidence-based approaches are required. Staff proposed the use of Screening and Brief Intervention (SBI) tools, the introduction of alcohol nurse specialists or alcohol liaison nurses, and specialist educational and training programmes for all staff.
"Though there was some negativity and frustration coming through in the quotes from some staff, the overriding findings showed that nurses in particular have a genuine concern for these patients. They feel conflicted in terms of fulfilling their moral and ethical code of conduct and duty of care to them but are challenged in the provision of this by the environments they work in," she said
Ms Conway said if the problem was to be properly addressed a multi-disciplinary strategic approach was needed.