New Zealand nurses' alcohol and other drug use

  • Marea Catherine Topp

    Student thesis: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) - CDU


    This study is the first New Zealand research to estimate the prevalence of nurses’ alcohol and other drug use (AOD). It is also the first study to examine the implications of altered work performance due to AOD use.

    A mixed methods design was used. This included developing a questionnaire and surveying a nationally representative sample of active registered nurses. In addition, to gain a greater depth of understanding of the survey findings, focus groups and individual interviews were undertaken with active registered nurses, managers of nurses and Directors of Nursing across rural, regional and metropolitan regions.

    This research found that nurses’ use of alcohol was similar to that reported for the New Zealand general population. Nurses’ cannabis use was less than reported for the general population and their opiate and benzodiazepine use was two times

    When nurses reported working below their normal level of performance due to their AOD use, their critical thinking and decision making abilities were altered, and they neglected the emotional care of patients and families. Nurse colleagues accommodated AOD affected nurses’ behaviours in an effort to reduce risk to both patients and the affected nurses. The findings from this study suggest an established ‘culture of permissibility’ that unintentionally enables nurses to compromise the safety of patients when they work with a hangover or when they work while affected by their AOD use.

    It is recommended AOD workforce education be provided to nurses and nursing students and organisational policies be developed that include zero tolerance for nurses working with a hangover, or otherwise affected by AOD use. These processes would discourage the continuation of the culture of permissibility, reduce health service provider organisations’ risk, and promote safe patient care.
    Date of AwardJun 2016
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorMary Finlayson (Supervisor)

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