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Dunne, Mary and Nelson, Mairea (2015) Nursing in contexts of marginalised health. Drugnet Ireland , Issue 55, Autumn 2015 , p. 19.

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The first Nursing in Contexts of Marginalised Health Conference took place in Dublin City University on 11 September 2015. This timely event, which brought together nurses from public health, addiction, academia, policy, and other sectors, coincided with the move of the Drugs Programmes and Policy Unit in the Department of Health from Primary Care to the Office of the Chief Nursing Officer.

 

In the morning session, Susan Kent, Deputy Chief Nursing Officer, spoke about the important, though often invisible, role of nurses and midwives in shaping healthcare policy and practice. Diane Nurse, national planning specialist in the HSE’s Social Inclusion Unit, provided an overview of activities within the Social Inclusion Unit, where three of six staff deal primarily with issues of homelessness and drugs. It is hoped in the future that services will not be based on specific, often marginalised, groups but on a more holistic approach, which recognises the people as individuals with particular needs. One of the challenges of those working in social inclusion is defining and demonstrating outcomes. Commissioning must be evidence- and needs-based, but outcomes tend to be long-term.

 

This theme was continued in the afternoon session by Linda O'Driscoll, Drug Treatment Court Nurse Liaison. The aim of the Drug Court is to prevent recidivism. Although only a small proportion graduate from the programme, Linda sees improvements in everyone who takes part. Many have chaotic lives, so demonstrating changes in their behaviour and better management of their daily lives is a positive outcome that may not be officially recognised. The Liaison Nurse supports clients through her role as advocate and expert to the team and Judge in all aspects of treatment.

 

Aoife O’Driscoll, policy officer at the National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA), spoke about removing barriers in healthcare, especially the medical language used by health practitioners when speaking to clients. She advocates using plain English rather than medical ‘jargon’ whenever possible and ensuring that clients understand their treatment plans.

 

The panel discussion that closed the conference acknowledged the complexities inherent in managing concurrent marginalisations. Participants believed that poor information-sharing, large caseloads and professional isolation were having negative impacts on their nursing work. It was agreed to maintain the momentum generated at the conference by creating a website and uploading the conference presentations and setting up a forum, and it is hoped to develop a nurses group that will continue to advocate for change on behalf of the marginalised in society.

 

The HRB’s National Drugs Library presented a poster at the conference to show those working with marginalised groups that the National Drugs Library is a physical library that is open to the public with access to our books, journals and databases, though most people access our resources through our website www.drugsandalcohol.ie

  

   1. Mairea Nelson, Mary Dunne, Brian Galvin from the HRB's national drugs library

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