Capus - Drug and Alcohol Nurses Australasia

“ A DANA member at work”
By Clare Capus, Clinical Nurse Consultant Alcohol & Other Drugs Juvenile Justice
The NSW Drug Summit of 1999 resulted in a range of initiatives to combat drug use and deal
with its effects. One of these was to create new nursing positions in the NSW Department of
Juvenile Justice.
Studies have shown that as many as 85 percent of young people detained in these centres are
battling to cope with alcohol or drug use problems. Nearly half this number needs treatment for
withdrawal on entering a detention centre.
The new nursing positions, include a Clinical Nurse Consultant (CNC), Alcohol and Other Drugs
(A& OD) position which specializes in supporting staff helping the young people deal with such
problems and additional nurses to ensure that young people can receive supported detoxification
in the clinics.
The Department of Juvenile Justice operates nine detention centres in Sydney and some NSW
regional centres. It also runs services including the Youth Justice Conferencing scheme, a
Statewide network of offices responsible for a range of community-based programs and several
facilities specialising in treating young offenders for underlying problems.
Each detention centre has a medical clinic staffed by Registered Nurses (RN). Part of the RN’s
role is to make a medical assessment when a young person enters a centre. This includes general,
mental, drug and alcohol and sexual health.
It is the primary role of the CNC A&OD to ensure that the nurses provide best practice A&OD
assessment, treatment, care and follow up. As a nurse in this role my responsibilities include:
 developing, monitoring and evaluating the department’s A&OD programs within the
Nursing/Health service,
 developing an adolescent-specific withdrawal regime,
 educating and supervising staff in A&OD issues including management and treatment of
 developing A&OD policy and procedures for nursing/health,
 facilitating training programs for staff,
 liaising with external health and A&OD services, and
 assessing, in collaboration with staff, young people with problematic substance use.
The position involves working closely with the Manager Nursing / Health Services, the Drug
Summit Initiatives Co-ordinator, Nursing Unit Managers and centre clinic nurses. This also
means travelling to the regions of NSW to visit centres.
Personally, as a nurse of twelve year’s experience, specializing in the alcohol and other drugs
field I find this a deeply interesting and challenging role. I have to wear many hats, not just that
of the A&OD nurse. I have been in the position nine months and that period has been a major
learning curve as I have grappled with the complexities of deeply-troubled adolescents, not to
mention the systems used in caring for them.
Nurses working in Juvenile Justice Centres provide a hugely worthwhile service to a group of
people who have usually suffered severe abuse and disadvantage from an early age. When I talk
to theses nurses about the difficulties experienced in their job they tell me that the rewards are to
be found in the development of the young people themselves. Watching them grow and feeling
part of the team responsible for trying to steer these kids back onto the straight and narrow is a
very worthwhile job.
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