Identifying health issues — checklist

Issues and challenges that can have a direct and negative impact on the health of nurses, midwives and students may be subtle, hard to detect and difficult to articulate. We help you to recognise signs and patterns that point to a health issue.

If you would like to chat to someone about supporting a nurse, midwife or student you can call our confidential support line 24/7 on 1800 667 877.
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Where to begin

Changes in patterns of behaviour do not automatically indicate a health issue. However, identifying changes in behaviour or behaviours may indicate the need for a discussion with the student or employee regarding their health.

These types of changes usually take place over a period of time, making them difficult to recognise. As a health issue becomes more entrenched and severe, the signs usually become more noticeable.

This checklist assists employers, human resource departments and education providers to identify signs and symptoms that may indicate that a nurse, midwife or student could be experiencing an emerging health issue.

Within the checklist there are behaviours that warrant reporting as notifiable conduct under the National Law and these must be reported as soon as observed.

Signs to look for

Physical signs

  • changes in speech pattern - including volume, rate and tone
  • deterioration in appearance - unkempt or poor hygiene
  • increasing anxiety
  • increasingly depressed
  • excessive tremor observed
  • drowsiness at work
  • excessive sweating observed
  • gastrointestinal upset
  • marked nervousness
  • odour of alcohol on breath observed
  • excessive use of mouth wash, mints, chewing gum
  • wearing long sleeves at all times, or
  • unsteady gait.

Attendance patterns

  • frequent absenteeism
  • pattern associated with absenteeism such as calling in sick after a rostered day off
  • peculiar or improbable excuses for absences from the workplace
  • long coffee or meal breaks observed
  • extended and unallocated breaks when working, often without informing colleagues and without explanation
  • confusion about work schedules
  • tardiness in attendance
  • early arrival or late departure from shift, or
  • attending to workplace on days off or during leave.

Cognitive behaviours

  • difficulty performing simple tasks
  • difficulty recalling or understanding instructions
  • reduced ability to prioritise care or requesting increased assistance in the clinical setting
  • confusion and difficulty in following and processing instructions and directions, or
  • diminished alertness.

Professional performance and relationships

  • increased irritability and easily angered when at work
  • overreaction to criticism relating to performance or general feedback
  • tendency to blame others
  • rigidity or inability to change plans, or
  • loss of interest in work.
What can I do next?

Why not use our service finder to find out about some of the services available to nurses, midwives and students.

Our service provides free and confidential support 24/7, to nurses, midwives and students Australia wide. If you would like to speak to someone call 1800 667 877, or you can request support via email.

If you would like to know a bit more about the service before getting in contact — take a look through accessing support.


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