quality improvement project; protocol audit; clinical audit; alcohol withdrawal protocol; patient safety; medication safety; nurse education; Clinical Institute Withdrawal Assessment for Alcohol, Revised; CIWA-Ar; Managing for Daily Improvement


Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences | Quality Improvement



The Clinical Institute Withdrawal Assessment for Alcohol, Revised (CIWA-Ar) is an assessment tool designed to standardize care and minimize the risk of complications in patients experiencing alcohol withdrawal. After discovering an increase in medication errors and late assessments under this protocol, pharmacists at a 218-bed community hospital performed an audit of protocol compliance using a performance improvement methodology known as Managing for Daily Improvement (MDI).


A daily audit of CIWA-Ar protocol compliance was performed across all hospital units, followed by discussions with frontline nurses regarding barriers to compliance. The daily audit included assessments of appropriate monitoring frequency, medication administration, and medication coverage. Nurses caring for CIWA-Ar patients were interviewed to identify perceived barriers to protocol compliance. The MDI methodology provided a framework and tools to visualize audit results. The visual management tools used in the methodology include daily tracking of 1 or more discrete process measures, daily identification of barriers to perfect process performance at the patient and process level, and collaborative action plan tracking to resolve barriers.


Forty-one audits were collected for 21 unique patients over 8 days. After conversations with multiple nurses across different units, the most commonly reported barrier to compliance was a lack of communication at shift handoff. The results of this audit were discussed with nurse educators, patient safety and quality leaders, and frontline nurses. Process improvement opportunities identified from this data included improved widespread nursing education, development of protocol auto-discontinuation criteria based on scores, and determination of downtime processes for the protocol.


The MDI quality tool successfully assisted in identifying end-user barriers to and focused areas of improvement of compliance with a nurse-driven CIWA-Ar protocol. This tool is elegant in its simplicity and ease of use. It can be customized to cover any timeframe or monitoring frequency while providing visualization of progress over time.