More than a quarter of midwives have engaged in problematic drug and alcohol misuse in response to work-related pressures, according to a study that calls for more support for those in the profession.
Twenty-eight per cent admitted to problematic substance use to cope with work-related stress and anxiety, bullying, traumatic clinical incidents and everyday pressures, the Coventry University study found.
While 11% of those affected indicated they had sought help, 27% felt they should have but did not. Reported barriers to seeking help included fear of repercussions, shame, stigma, practicalities and a perceived lack of support.
One in 10 midwives who took part admitted to attending work under the influence of alcohol, and 6% under the influence of drugs other than tobacco or those prescribed to them.
Dr Sally Pezaro, fellow of the Royal College of Midwives and researcher in the Centre for Arts Memory and Communities (CAMC) at Coventry University, said she hoped the findings would be a catalyst for change and urged the NHS and government policy makers to work with the university to on provision of support.
“Presently, many midwives engaged in problematic substance use feel unable to seek help. If we can highlight this issue and encourage a change in perceptions, stigma, policy, and the provision of support then this work will have achieved its goal in making a difference. Yet our overall aim is to give all midwives the opportunity to receive compassionate support where required, so that they may continue to deliver excellence in care every day,” she said.
The study, Problematic substance use: an assessment of workplace implications in midwifery, has been published in the journal Occupational Medicine and involved a survey of 623 midwives about their use of non-prescribed drugs and alcohol.
Thirty-seven per cent said they were concerned about a colleagues’ substance use, but one anonymous respondent said a colleague was dismissed and “named and shamed” when others found out about her reliance on substances, rather than helping her.
“We want a greater recognition of this issue and hope this data will be a catalyst for change and a reduction in stigma,” said Dr Pezaro.