Managing patients experiencing alcohol withdrawal is resource intensive and clinically challenging for nurses. Severe alcohol withdrawal occurs in approximately 40% of intensive care unit (ICU) patients and significantly increases both ICU and hospital mortality. Nurses must be able to recognize the signs of alcohol withdrawal, assess the patient, and initiate proper treatment. Intensive care patients with a diagnosis of alcohol withdrawal syndrome typically require escalating doses of benzodiazepines, which may lead to intubation and mechanical ventilation for airway protection. Patients may experience prolonged ICU stays and complications may develop. Treating patients with severe signs and symptoms of alcohol withdrawal has a substantial impact on health care system personnel requirements, resources, supplies, and cost.

The medical ICU (MICU) at Maimonides Medical Center is a 20-bed unit that primarily provides care for elderly patients with sepsis and pneumonia. From September 2013...

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