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Too frightened to care? Accounts by district nurses working with clients who misuse substances

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Abstract:

Abstract

Drug misusers have complex health and social care needs, and experience considerable difficulties in accessing the assessment, care and treatment that they require. Despite the development of specialist services in many parts of the UK, substance misuse is often marginalised within mainstream general healthcare, and many practitioners are unprepared for the challenges of working with this client group. The present paper reports findings from a qualitative study that aimed to explore district nurses’ understandings and practices in relation to discrimination and inequalities issues. The research took place during 2003 in two city-based primary care trusts in the North of England. Semistructured interviews were undertaken with 18 ‘G’ grade district nurses. The authors present findings that highlight some of the challenges and tensions district nurses encounter when providing care to clients who misuse substances. The discourses of ‘prejudice’ and ‘risk’ were intertwined throughout the data, and served to shape service provision for clients who misuse substances. This was reflected in the district nurses’ accounts of their own practice and that of other services, suggesting that these clients receive suboptimal care. The discourse of ‘risk’ was also used by district nurses to construct themselves as ‘vulnerable’, and this helped to explain some of their own practices of care provision. Many participants acknowledged their limited knowledge and experience of working with this client group. There is an urgent need for district nurses and other health professionals to develop their practice with these clients, who may present as both vulnerable and dangerous, in order to ensure that care is provided equitably and safely.

Keywords: district nursing; prejudice; stereotyping; substance misuse

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2524.2006.00683.x

Affiliations: 1: School of Health and Human Sciences, University of Huddersfield, Huddersfield and 2: School of Nursing and Midwifery, University of Sheffield, Rotherham, UK

Publication date: 2007-05-01

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