Although the individual and public health consequences of alcohol and drug use are substantial, nursing education programs generally lack content on addiction. The goal of this evaluation was to compare the initial outcomes of on-site versus distance methods for training graduate nurse practitioner students in Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) for substance use.
A nonrandomized two-group pretest–posttest design was used to compare knowledge, attitudes, and skills learning outcomes between on-site (n = 45) and distance (n = 18) family or adult/geriatric Master of Science in Nursing nurse practitioner students receiving SBIRT training.
Overall, students increased their knowledge, attitudes, and confidence about screening and intervening with patients who use substances; showed a high level of skills in conducting a brief intervention to motivate patients to reduce their substance use; and were highly satisfied with the education provided. Counseling confidence and gains in knowledge were similar across groups. Compared with distance students, on-site students reported significantly more positive attitudes about their role adequacy, role legitimacy, and role support for intervening with alcohol use and about their role support for intervening with drug use. On-site students had greater training satisfaction, but distance students’ skills assessed through standardized patient interactions were significantly better.
Both on-site and distance training were effective instructional methods to increase SBIRT knowledge and skills. However, differences in attitudes, training satisfaction, and skills demonstration should be taken into account when designing addiction training using distance technologies.