Alcohol breath nurse........

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    I have a co-worker that I have noticed the smell of alcohol, that day after smell. For those of you who have lived with alcoholics, you know that smell, not a fruity diabetic smell but a hangover smell. I am concerned for my co-worker as well as the patients and have already mentioned it to my supervisor. Policy requires that we have behavior to collaborate with smell in order to confront the person. I want this to be something other than what I think it is. I have noticed it twice as has another co-worker. I don't think it is my position to talk to the person with the smell. It is definitely breath, not hand sanitizer, she is not on the Atkins diet......... Anyone with this experience and or advice?

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  2. 14 Comments...

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    If she is obviously drunk, and making obvious errors, report it to a supervisor or your manager---you are right; it's not your job to counsel her yourself....
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    Quote from bluemesa
    I have a co-worker that I have noticed the smell of alcohol, that day after smell. For those of you who have lived with alcoholics, you know that smell, not a fruity diabetic smell but a hangover smell. I am concerned for my co-worker as well as the patients and have already mentioned it to my supervisor. Policy requires that we have behavior to collaborate with smell in order to confront the person. I want this to be something other than what I think it is. I have noticed it twice as has another co-worker. I don't think it is my position to talk to the person with the smell. It is definitely breath, not hand sanitizer, she is not on the Atkins diet......... Anyone with this experience and or advice?
    If it is actually a day after smell, and she is not impaired at work, does it matter? I mean, the smell does, and there have been several threads on coworkers who smell in one way or another. I wonder, though, how much you can do if she's drinking in her own time and it's not affecting her work.
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    I know that smell...my ex was an alcoholic. And what I know about that smell is, it isn't just two or three drinks. And usually it isn't just one day's worth of drinking that gets it to that point. That's a build-up of alcohol in the system.

    I also understand your concern, because even though my ex wasn't drinking at a particular moment, his judgement when he was in that cycle of drinking was impaired. He didn't stagger, or make obvious errors. But he was also not entirely competent.

    You probably can't do anything right now, but take it as a warning sign. Document somewhere. And keep an eye on things. If you talk to your co-worker you are likely to get denial. But if things deteriorate something might have to be done.

    And I also understand that it isn't the smell that is bothering you, it is what that implies about the person. You have mentioned it to your supervisor, that's about all you can do now...except watch...and document.
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    Yes..I think you should report to your supervisor. eventhough the person did not do any mistake but one day may happened something that harm the patient life and also affect her future as well. Besides, I think the patient will not respect us as a nurse if they also smell the alcoholic smell like you do. It is not professional to a nurse to behave like that. I greatly support you to report to your sister. so that your sister probably can warn her before any bad things happen.
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    You have done all you can do at the moment by notifiying your supervisor.

    I would not approach the other nurse personally unless a golden opportunity presents itself. She has probably wrapped herself in years of denial and may become even more entrenched if confronted by someone who has no power over her.

    Without letting yourself become overly preoccupied (and therefore vulnerable to mistakes), take note of any corroborating behavior that you personally witness or that can be verified by other means. Do not get caught up in the trap of hearsay or gossip. Let your supervisor know of any situation that concerns you.

    I'm suggesting a back-burner kind of awareness. The last thing you want to do is find yourself so focused on another person that you, a) don't mind your own p's and q's, or, b) begin to look like you have it in for this other nurse.

    Thank you for sharing your concerns and setting the wheels in motion for further action. Now that management has been made aware of the situation, the ball really is in their court.
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    The co-worker is going to be found out. If this person is an alcoholic, if you and a co-worker have kinda figured that out, I KNOW a patient has probably thought that too. More than likely a patient may tell another nurse that this individual is in hangover mode and I would not like to be cared by that person. When that happens the Nurse Manager or Supervisor will be told obviously. They will then have to confront that individual and hopefully help that person with a Step program or with D/A counseling.
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    Do you feel close enough to her to be able to take her aside? Let her know what you have noticed, and suggest she do something to help herself before she ends up confronted. She will probably deny it to you, but at least you will have planted the seed.
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    I'm with Tazzi on this one...and I would go so far as to say that you do not even need to feel close to this person as I have, over the course of my life, had some fairly intense interactions with mere strangers I just met. ( I know that last part sounds kinda cooky, but sometimes you just 'know' this kind of thing in your spirit - I know the defending statement sounds just as cooky)...ANYWAY, the point being that I would personally take this person aside and would not ask her, but rather, tell her (delicately) that I know what she is doing and that I am concerned about her as a human being. Yes, of course you are concerned about the safety of your unit's patients, but this person will not 'receive' this kind of message...at least not initially. Such a threat of punitive action (because that is how she will perceive it) will only increase her denial and defensiveness. If she has any sense at all, she would already know that you as a nurse would have this concern. This kind of person, involved in addiction and self destruction, needs to feel safe enough to disclose her problem. Even still, you may be met with some resistance/denial or outright disdain for your 'assumption'. If this happens, simply stand firm on what you pretty much know to be true (and back this up with saying that you are not the only one who has noticed this and talk about your history of knowing that smell) and that when she wants to talk about her problems, you will non-judgementally be there for her. Also, remind her that there are other non-punitive resources she can turn to. Having at least broached this topic with her as a co-worker who cares, she now will know that her secret is out - which may serve to begin breaking down the walls of her denial (mind you some addicts, depending on where they are in their addiction, have many walls while others only have one or two).

    Of course you will still need to watch her closely while at work and report any errors you see just as you would any other nurse. While that initial approach should be a caring one, she also must understand that you are not going to co-sign her addiction by giving her any breaks you would not give to anyone else.

    If you convey this "I'm coming to you as a professional, but a very different kind of professional (not the average nurse who first runs and rats)", I believe you will have done the very best thing SINCE she is not coming to work actively impaired. If she were, then that would be a different story.
  11. 0
    My brother is an ex-alcoholic. I describe that smell as the smell of rotten corn. At least that's what it smelled like to me. I HATE that smell.


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