What to do with co-worker that is drinking

Nurses General Nursing


I am so frustrated with a co-worker. This nurse calls myself and other co-workers after work hours and on weekends to vent about work. When she calls, it is VERY obvious that she has been drinking alcohol, or taking some other mind-altering substance. She slurs her words and repeats herself over and over. I have never actually witnessed her being impaired at work, but she does have "day old" alcohol on her breath and wears enough perfume to gag a maggot. One night when she WAS on call the answering service was unable to get ahold of her. Then her phone accidentally called a co-worker and there was a recording on her voice mail of a conversation sounding like she was impaired. This was basically swept under the rug by management. Who knows how many other nights she has been like this and no-one knew about it. What do I do? I know she needs help but obviously unless I have proof I cannot report her to the nursing board. Even if she is not actually "drinking" at work.....if you are hungover it affects your work? What to do?

Specializes in PACU, OR.

Check this thread I think I just ended someone's career - Nursing for Nurses and go to page 11. There's a post there headed unbecominganurse, with the name Paula Davies Scimeca at the bottom. She gives advice there for nurses who are substance abusers.

The thread is about drug abusers, but the principle applies equally to alcohol abuse.

If you wish to help this nurse, I think you should let her know in as kind a way as possible that you are aware of her habit. If she admits that she has a problem, she's at least halfway to seeking treatment and counselling.

Specializes in acute care med/surg, LTC, orthopedics.

Report her. That's all you can do.

So management is aware of her drunkenness but choosing to do nothing about it? You'd think the potential liability issues would be enough to scare them into action but apparently not.

Unless this nurse was a friend I wouldn't feel comfortable approaching her personally, you might get embroiled into a messy situation that you may regret later and her problems may become your problems. But if you do nothing, and something tragic happens, it may come back and bite you in the keister. So yeah, report her.

Specializes in Critical Care, ED, Cath lab, CTPAC,Trauma.

You can tell her you are concerned in a calm friendly manner. But technically if she is drinking at home and she calls people at home from her home impaired. There is not much you can do. If she is on call and impaired then it is up to your manager to approach the issue. You can voice your concerns with your supervisor but be sure......this is a very serious accusation if you are wrong!

I agree with Esme12.....you can approach her privately in a calm manner, but if she is not impaired at work than you don't have proof and it is up to your manager and DON to handle this matter with the employee...just be positive if you are going to report someone that you have proof to back it up, but if she does admit to you that she does need help than that is a great because there is alot of help out there for impaired professionals.

If management does not want to deal witht/refuses to deal with it, then it is time to move UP the food chain. Make sure that you include Risk Management in you list. You might also want to include the senior partner of the law firm, who defends the hospital in lawsuits.

Alcohol takes a cetain amount of time to clear through the body, and if she is drinking late into the night, and goes to work in the morning, she probably still has enough alcohol in her body to be, "nursing under the influence". She would be a menace to her patients.

JMHO and my NY $.02.

Lindarn, RN, BSN, CCRN

Somewhere in the PACNW

Specializes in Med/Surge, Psych, LTC, Home Health.

I worked with a nurse until recently who sounds exactly like what you are describing.

She even called our supervisor one night, ******* and vented about work, and then went on to start telling our supervisor what a horrible job she was doing, as our supervisor!

Our DON, who was at the time looking for a reason to get rid of this particular nurse anyway, told our supervisor that if she did that again, or for that matter called anyone from work again, drunk, who had already told her that they didn't wish to be called at home by her... that they could fire her and cite harassment as the rationale.

Specializes in PeriOperative.

If she was drinking/impaired/MIA while on call, that does constitute working while impaired and possibly patient abandonment. It is NOT appropriate for you to address these issues with her. This is what management gets paid the big bucks for. And if they don't seem to care, go up the chain of command.

As her peer, it is neither your job nor your place to confront her about this. No good will come of it if you try to.

Specializes in drug seekers and the incurably insane..

Unless you actually see her coming into work impaired and acting in a manner that is detrimental to the patients and others.....mind your own business. If she calls you at home, don't answer the phone, or as others have suggested....tell her directly not to call you at home. It is for management to deal with this, not yourself. Just keep up the good work you're doing, this problem will eventually fix itself.

"I think that..." "I swear that..." "It sounds just like..." "Somebody else said that..." "I was talking to her on the phone and it was just like..."

In other words, you don't KNOW anything.

Take her aside and express your concerns to her gently. Do not go any further than that because you have no proof, only supposition. How much damage are you willing to do because you think you know something, or you heard some scuttlebutt?

Specializes in Psych ICU, addictions.

Unfortunately, unless she is drinking and/or impaired at work, there's not much you can do in terms of reporting her to anyone. As long as she's 21, whether she decides to drink in her off-hours is her business.

That being said...if you feel you must get involved, I agree with those who suggested approaching her privately and letting her know there have been some concerns about her behavior and recent actions. I would avoid accusations because unless you were there doing a breathalyzer on her as she made the phone calls, you don't know for certain what happened.

"Take One" poster , I agree with,--- it really may true, but it really is "hear-say" And hear-say is not usally used or allowed in court, nor should it be used to determine ones nursing career.

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