Incorporating SBIRT in Social Work Curriculum: A Q&A

HealthcareProvider Communication SkillsSubstance Use

Today we’re kicking off a series of posts showcasing colleges and universities who are incorporating Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) training into their schools of health curriculum thanks to the unique partnership between Kognito and NORC at the University of Chicago.

Healthcare and social work settings are increasingly using SBIRT to meet the needs of their patients, based on research and formal recommendations from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), and several national and international public health agencies.

Patrice Sentino, DSW

We had the opportunity to interview key champions of SBIRT techniques who have helped bring the power of simulation to their institutions.

Our first interview was with Patrice Sentino, DSW. Dr. Sentino is an assistant professor at the Southern University Department of Social Work in New Orleans. She has been in the field of social work for nearly 30 years, with a background in behavioral health, addiction and substance use, crisis intervention, psychotherapy, and more. She focuses on educational and behavioral outcomes through her research, clinical work, and leadership, and dedicates her time to assisting children, adolescents, and adults distressed by mental illness and emotional disturbance.

Read the Q&A to learn how Dr. Sentino incorporated the SBI with Adolescents simulation into her social work curriculum, the response from students, and her thoughts on its effectiveness. We’ll also share results that indicate how well the simulation prepared students to have conversations with adolescents about substance use.

How do you use the simulation with your students?

The simulation is integrated in two courses: Human Behavior and the Social Environment and Chemical Dependency.

How did you embed the simulation into your courses?

They [students] started out with the [simulation’s] pretest, which helped to assess their knowledge base, prior to beginning the course activities. The modules were integrated into the instructional materials throughout the semester, and then midway, they were required to complete the simulation. They had to score 80% or better to meet satisfactory requirements. And then after the simulation activity was completed, they were directed to complete the post-survey.

What other learning methods do you incorporate in the classes?

Didactic lectures, videos, live simulation such as role-play which helps with keeping students engaged.

What did you observe in student performance?

The majority of students scored [the required] 80% on their first attempt. Some students scored a little less than 80%, and they were instructed to re-do the simulation until they reached the 80% to get the passing grade.

What feedback did you receive from students?

Feedback from students was very positive. They liked the use of the technology. They also liked the use of the feedback that the simulation provided to them as it related to guidance — what they could have said differently, and how they could have structured their assessment and interview differently.

Do you see value in this simulation platform for social work programs?

I found that the whole [simulation] program was very instrumental in helping our students get some of that hands-on, live, real-world type experience. And I feel like that is very important when you’re working with adult learners, because they want to see that what they’re learning can be applied to the real world, or that it’s going to be beneficial to them as they move or matriculate through their academic regimen as well as in their own professional careers and life. I feel like a model like this can be very instrumental as it relates to social work or in social work programs.

From all of your teaching experience, do you notice learners struggling with role play?

Early on students do struggle. When undergraduate students are introduced to these different modalities or techniques, they don’t really know how to engage. I try to embed role-playing activities in the courses that I teach to give students exposure and experience so they can have a level of comfortability.

I think it’s important that we infuse different assessments or different activities such as simulations that will help students feel more comfortable and hone in on their craft through practicing.

Did you find that students were more comfortable using the simulation compared to a live role-play experience?

I think they felt a little more comfortable with the simulation because it was just one-on-one with them doing the simulation as a part of their own experience. When it had to be demonstrated live, students felt a level of nervousness. They needed help and assistance with what should be said,  or how should they answer.

You can see the transition of how some students felt more comfortable even after completing the simulation and doing a (live) role play afterwards, and how the simulation helps prepare them.

What signals to you that a student is ready to have a field encounter/work with patients?

Their level of confidence is important, as well as their level of knowledge as it relates to certain components. They need to meet and accomplish different competencies (in social work there are nine competencies that students have to master). They are assessed through assessment and activities, and typically they have to score 80% or better on assignments. We definitely look at all of those things, look at their field placement, their internships, how they function in the community, etc. There are many different indicators that I look at as a professor and as a professional in the field of social work to say, “OK. I feel like this student is competent enough to fulfill the requirements of this profession.”

Would you recommend the simulation that you used in your courses to other social work programs?

Most definitely. Just looking at the results from the pre and post test … students really lack the knowledge (pre-test). I saw just the progression of the students’ knowledge base increase from pre-simulation to simulation, to didactic information, all the way to the post-simulation.

How was your experience overall?

As a professor that has been in the field of social work for almost 30 years, it was very enlightening to see that this is something that’s being offered to universities. For me, it provided a more diverse way of teaching my students and also enhanced the engagement with my students.


Southern University results: Improved competence, confidence, readiness and knowledge

Kognito ran t-tests to identify if there were any significant differences in outcome measures before and after training. Southern University learners showed significant improvement in feelings of self-reported competence, confidence, and readiness to have conversations with adolescents about their substance use. Learners also significantly improved in a selection of knowledge measures and on a sample case study. Some highlighted improvements from pre-test to post-test include:

  • 15% increase in learner competence to have conversations with adolescents about their substance use
  • 19% increase in learner confidence to have conversations with adolescents about their substance use
  • 33% increase in learner readiness to have conversations with adolescents about their substance use
  • 14% increase in learner knowledge

Experience an adolescent SBIRT simulation

Want to experience the impact of hands-on practice leading important patient encounters? Take an interactive demo of one of Kognito’s simulations.

The SBIRT simulations were made possible thanks to our partnership with NORC at the University of Chicago. Learn more about the partnership here.