The demographic profile of alcohol and other drug (AOD) nurses in Australia: Experienced, highly qualified… and endangered?

Adam Searby, Dianna Burr, Ian McGrath

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Little is known about the demographic profile of Australian alcohol and other drug nurses, a key part of the workforce that provides care to healthcare consumers who seek treatment for problematic alcohol and other drug use. Aim: To explore the demographics of the alcohol and other drug nursing workforce in Australia. Method: Electronic survey, comprising quantitative demographic questions and qualitative responses. Statistical analysis was conducted to explore workforce demographics, and thematic analysis used to explore free-text responses. Findings: In total, we surveyed 337 nurses working in alcohol and other drug nursing positions. Most (81.3%) were female, and postgraduate qualified (67%). Approximately 60% of participants were aged 45 and over, and 9% 31 or under. Participants were highly experienced in the specialty (mean 13.72 years, SD 10.10), and in nursing overall (mean 26.29 years, SD 13.38). When compared with the total nursing workforce, alcohol and other drug nurses are older, with proportionally fewer nurses under the age of 35. Qualitative themes indicate workforce sustainability and attracting new entrants as key issues. Discussion: These findings indicate that the Australian alcohol and other drug nursing workforce is older, with many participants nearing retirement. There are fewer younger entrants to the specialty, lending support to the argument that alcohol and other drug nurses are endangered. Conclusion: There is an urgent need to develop strategies to encourage nurses to take up alcohol and other drug nursing; especially considering the number of highly experienced and qualified nurses likely to leave the specialty soon.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)22-30
Number of pages9
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Addiction nursing
  • Alcohol and other drug nursing
  • Nursing specialties
  • Research, nursing administration
  • Substance use disorders
  • Workforce, health

Cite this