Study to explore nurses’ heavy drinking culture

Researchers from La Trobe University’s Centre for Alcohol and Policy Research (CAPR) will investigate the heavy alcohol consumption culture among nurses and lawyers in Victoria in a bid to help curb problem drinking.

The project, made possible by a $237,000 Australian Research Council Linkage Grant, is hopeful of triggering new campaigns to reduce harmful drinking among the two groups.

Lead researcher, Dr Robyn Dwyer, said nurses and lawyers make up sizeable workforces, with about 330,000 nurses employed in Australia in 2015 and 71,500 solicitors practising in 2016, and that heavy drinking can be part of the work culture.

“Collective drinking such as after-work drinks and networking is part of the occupational activities of nurses and lawyers and while we know that heavy drinking occurs among these groups, little is known about their drinking cultures that support these drinking patterns,” Dr Dwyer said.

“Research has already shown that large proportions of these two workforces drink more than is recommended. This potentially poses risks to the long-term wellbeing and safety of individual nurses and lawyers, but could also affect their care and support of patients or clients.”

Researchers will carry out the study in settings where nurses and lawyers drink together, allowing them to collect knowledge on the cultural and social practices, meanings and settings that shape heavy drinking among the two cohorts.

One of the main goals of the study, whose project partners include VicHealth and the Nursing and Midwifery Health Program Victoria, is to identify opportunities to change drinking culture within the two occupations.

Dr Dwyer said the focus on drinking cultures within subgroups of the population was an emerging addition to population or individual-level strategies to reducing alcohol-related harms.

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