A pathway to a healthier you

Alcohol use

Nurses and midwives are no more immune to problems associated with alcohol than the rest of the nation.

In 2019, 1 in 4 Australians identified drinking to risky levels at least monthly. The difference for some nurses and midwives are the barriers to seeking help for sensitive health issues such as alcohol problems. They fear the associated stigma and feel that they should know better. 

Understanding alcohol dependence

Alcohol dependence broadly involves drinking too much alcohol. It often leads to problems with health and everyday functioning. Dependence isn’t voluntary and for many dependence doesn’t eventuate from conscious decision making, it is a compulsive behavior that affects the brain. 

Drinking as a response to stress

No one who drinks has the intention of having problems with alcohol. However for nurses and midwives, work stress and associated harms can increase the likelihood of this occurring. The changing nature of our roles amid the pandemic including unrealistic overtime and changes roles triggered much of the stress, driving many of us to exhaustion and burnout. 

Of concern many nurses/midwives who turned to alcohol to reduce stress treated it as a reward for working through such demanding conditions and stretched resources.1 In a recent study, 31.3% of nurses identified as having a problem with alcohol, with the rates of alcohol consumption found in the study exceeding those found in other industries. 

Identifying you have a problem with alcohol

Sometimes it can be hard to notice when a regular couple of drinks has turned into too many, too often. The fact that you’re thinking about whether you have a problem is a good start. 

There are some signs that you can look out for: 

  • worrying about when you’ll be able to have your next drink 
  • consuming alcohol regularly on your own
  • trying to hide your drinking from those around you 
  • worsening relationships with friends or family 
  • staying out late and encouraging friends to keep drinking when they’ve said they want to go home. 
  • sweating or feeling nauseous when you don’t drink alcohol 
  • being unable to get to sleep without drinking alcohol 
  • needing to drink more and more alcohol to get drunk. 


If you think you have a problem, use an online self-assessment tool to understand your drinking. 
Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) – developed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to detect risky drinking patterns in individuals. These assessments and their results are 100% anonymous and confidential.  

Keep a ‘drinking diary’

A good first step in making sense of your relationship with alcohol is completing a ‘drinking diary’. It is a log to keep track of the number of drinking or alcohol-free days, or even your thoughts, feelings and drinking behaviour. By using this self-monitoring tool you can make sense of any patterns, issues, connections and also keep track of the things you want to make progress towards.  

Asking for support

Find your local Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Smart Recovery group – they are available in many Australian cities and regional areas. These peer groups support people with alcohol and drug problems who want to stop drinking or using drugs. 

You could try one of many online resources and phone apps that help you change your relationship with alcohol. Examples include Hello Sunday Morning website and The Daybreak App. The Daybreak App is free, private and secure. It provides many tools form an online supportive peer community to a drink tracker to help you with monitoring your intake. 

Are you drinking too much?

Talk to us – our service is free, confidential and nurse/midwife-led. 

Talk to us

If you’re alone, unsure or need to talk about the situation at work.

people aged 14 and over
drank at a risky level on a single occasion at least monthly 
of people aged 14
and older exceeded lifetime risk guidelines  

How many drinks – make an informed choice

…”healthy men and women should drink no more than 10 standard drinks a week and no more than 4 standard drinks on any one day.” - to reduce the risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury.
Australian guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol by the National Health and Medical Research Council 

I believe that everything affecting our society affects nurses and that eventually will hemorrhage over to the nursing profession
Denetra Hampton, RN, documentary filmmaker of Racism: The African American Nursing Experience Short Film