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Implementing a Perinatal Substance Abuse Screening Tool

Wallman, Carol M., MS, NNP-BC, RN; Smith, Pat Bohling, MS, RNC; Moore, Karen, MS, RNC, CNS

Section Editor(s): Catlin, Anita

doi: 10.1097/ANC.0b013e318225a20b
Ethical Issues in Newborn Care

Newborns exposed to illicit drugs or alcohol in utero can face physical, social, and emotional obstacles. Outcomes for children with fetal alcohol syndrome disorders are well documented in the literature. Data exist on the effects of maternal illicit drug use. Identifying perinatal substance abuse can increase positive outcomes for newborns and create the opportunity for mothers to access assistance through referrals to community resources.

This article provides insight on how hospitals can implement an effective screening tool through patient surveying and testing, nurse education, and collaboration with community agencies in a multidisciplinary advisory committee setting.

This discussed method of universal perinatal screening results in increased positive screens and increased referrals for care and support. Emphasis is placed on universal screening and testing methods. Nurses are trained in motivational interview techniques that convey empathy, listening, and objectivity. Community agencies partner with hospital staff through onsite meetings with families that determine the best discharge plan for the newborn. The multidisciplinary advisory committee meets continually to discuss future enhancements.

The Children's Hospital, Aurora, Colorado, and Poudre Valley Hospital, Fort Collins, Colorado (Ms Wallman); and Women and Family Services, Poudre Valley Hospital, Fort Collins, Colorado (Mr Smith and Ms Moore).

Correspondence: Carol M. Wallman, MS, NNP-BC, RN, 8059 Timberwolf Circle, Wellington, CO 80549 (

This manuscript has not been previously published and is not under consideration by another publication.

© 2011 National Association of Neonatal Nurses