Drink Tank

Mum makes it hard

Twenty years of drug and alcohol promotion work as a nurse working with university students has left me feeling a little burnt out.

There is a never ending tidal wave of new students to challenge about their alcohol and drug intake. I think I sound like a scratched record sometimes. Keeping the focus and enthusiasm on the individual is challenging at times.

We’ve scored some good points on the board over the years, like greatly improving the safety of the student’s B&S ball through events management training and RSA and harm minimisation training for the students’ organisers. Similarly, years of student DrinkSmart programs and, of course, appropriate up-to-date alcohol policy and procedures have also contributed to our success.

Twenty years on, I still deliver alcohol health promotion to our predominately young student patients and not so young staff during daily nurse consultations. I gauge alcohol and drug use consumption and perform brief interventions when required. I like to talk frankly to patients and students about their health and their alcohol and drug use. It’s a part of my usual nurse consultations in updating their health records prior to addressing the issue at hand.

One female student last week said she made a conscious decision not to drink as she thought alcohol use would interfere with her study and life ambitions. I congratulated her on her choice. I get excited when Australian students chose not to drink alcohol.

But, the student went on to tell me, “Mum makes it hard!”

“What do you mean Mum makes it hard?” I questioned.

The student explained that she recently turned eighteen and her mother had been constantly trying to get her to drink; even offering to take her to the bottle shop to find out what she likes.

I encouraged her to stick to her commitment and then went on to discuss the difficulties some Australians face when choosing to swim against the alcohol tide.

Wonders never cease in my job, one person at a time.

This positive, but infrequent feedback from patients to this daily grind that returns in various forms over many years is like a life buoy in stormy waters.

Matthew Middleton

Matthew Middleton is a Practice Nurse Manager at the University of Queensland Health Service.

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