“ETOH: 8 OZ TID PRN Stress: It’s a Nurse Thing.” NO, It’s Not.

I’m sure just about every nurse out there has seen an advertisement or two for one of those t-shirts come across his or her Facebook feed that reads something like “8 oz. of ETOH QID PRN STRESS….It’s a nurse thing.”


I’ve taken some hits for strongly objecting to this in public forum, telling me to “unclench a little” but I am still a member of this profession and I feel like it’s important to stand up and say that these t-shirts do nothing but harm the profession’s image, the public’s perception of our profession, while at the same time potentiating an already difficult problem within our profession by portraying the frequent use of alcohol as a means of stress relief as a “nurse thing,” as part of our culture, and our coping mechanisms to survive what we see, hear, do, and are a part of 40 hours a week.

We as a profession should be concerned. In Arizona, the rate of Registered Nurses who have come before the Arizona Board of Nursing has doubled over the past few years. The following numbers were pulled from public record. These are partial:

2010: 29 DUI Letters of Concern, 4 Repeat Offender or Aggravated DUI Letters of Concern; 3 Extreme DUI Letters of Concern

2011: 11 DUI Letters of Concern; 1 Repeat or Aggravated DUI Letter of Concern, 5 Extreme DUI Letters of Concern

2012: 13 DUI Letters of Concern; 5 Repeat DUI Letters of Concern; 1 Extreme DUI Letter of Concern

2013: 9 DUI Letters of Concern; 10 Extreme DUI Letters of Concern

2014: 12 DUI Letters of Concern; 8 Extreme DUI Letters of Concern; 1 Repeat extreme DUI Letter of Concern; 1 public intoxication and failure to cooperate with law enforcement/resisting arrest Letter of Concern

2015 (partial/pending data) : 5 DUI Letters of Concern, 5 Extreme DUI Letters of Concern; 1 DUI Hit and Run with Arrest Letter of Concern; 1 DUI Mixed Substance and Obstructing Police (nurse anesthetist) Letter of Concern; 3 Repeat Offender Extreme DUI Letters of Concern.

Any one of these nurses could have taken the life of an individual or family.

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We are the nation’s largest profession. Now, more than ever, we should be standing up and demanding that these t shirt companies STOP making a single dollar off of any member of nursing by ceasing production of apparel displaying offensive, unprofessional, and dangerous messages that threaten our overall public image.

Let’s revisit the Code of Ethics for Nurses and glance again at the T-shirt. I’d argue that we are morally obligated by the Code itself to take action against these companies. As nurses we have an example to set for the newer generations, and an obligation to ourselves and our coworkers to make healthy choices not just for our own purposes of coping but to enhance our abilities to support colleagues through the endless bumps and valleys that we encounter while in the line of caring.


I’m not saying we should abstain from alcohol altogether—far from that. What I am urging is that we not facilitate this HUGE GLARING MESSAGE being broadcasted to the public, to the members of our profession, and to the potential members of our profession that alcohol is just a “thing” to be used frivolously as a means to deal with the stressors we experience at work and in our personal lives.

Alcohol and substance over use and abuse is no joke, it isn’t cute, and it increases the legal, ethical, and safety problems within the patient care environments. It places the individual nurse, his/her colleagues, and patients at risk every single time he or she comes to work impaired from alcohol or diverts drugs for personal use while at work.


Some facts:

“100,000 persons die each year from alcohol-related causes: drinking and driving crashes, other accidents, falls, fires, alcohol-related homicides and suicides.

Of the 3.9 million Americans who received treatment for a substance abuse problem in 2005, 2.5 million of them were treated for alcohol use.

Every day, almost 30 people in the United States die in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver. This amounts to one death every 51 minutes.”

This is one area we should be standing together to tell retailers what we will and will not stand for when it comes to how we are portrayed. These companies SHOULD NOT be making a profit from making our profession look anything less than what it is intended to look like, what it should look like, and what it should always look like—-Caring, Professional, Ethical, Honest, Responsible.

Firefighters, Police Officers, Military Personnel, and Doctors do not have T-shirts being made like this—why are WE allowing it? These t shirts send a message to the public that we as nurses ENDORSE THE EXCESSIVE USE of alcohol several times a day because it’s just “a thing we do.”


I read one nurse’s response in a public forum I was debating in: “A real NURSE would understand.”

My response: “A real NURSE would understand that alcohol kills. A real NURSE would understand the inherent dangers of not just sending a message of complacency when it comes to the over use of alcohol and the consequences of depending on it for coping with what we do. A real NURSE would understand that we carry with us the moral obligation every second of every day to uphold the values of the profession in how we portray ourselves and the example we set to both colleagues and patients alike. THAT is what I understand as a nurse.”

It comes down to this:

Nurses have been voted time and again the most trusted profession in the nation. I am willing to bet if each one of us walked around wearing one of these cute little t-shirts to the gym, the grocery store, the local pharmacy, or the mall we would certainly be giving the general public something to stop and take pause over.



  1. Agree. How many other “professions” have cute T-shirts? Makes me think there is enough market for these that a great many of us do not have a professional mindset.

  2. Cheryl Haskin says:

    I am a Level 1 Nursing student, and when I saw this on Facebook a couple of weeks ago, I understood only one of the abbreviations (ETOH). Now I understand them all. My husband, a business professional, thought this was hilarious when I explained it. What IS “funny” about this is the abbreviations that no one outside of the medical profession would understand. What IS NOT funny is exactly what you cite – too many people “numbing”. Someone could make another shirt saying “Chardonnay in the sippy cup – it’s a mommy thing.” I bet whoever looked up “chardonnay” would object, and rightly so. So, what makes the shirt FUNNY is the list of abbreviations; NOT FUNNY is the message conveyed.

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