I love seeing people on the road to recovery

Rachel Tucker from Ystrad Rhondda works in the Community Drug and Alcohol Team in Ysbyty Cwm Cynon, Mountain Ash.

"I’ve been a substance misuse nurse for the past nine years, I went straight into it after doing my Mental Health Nursing degree at the University of Glamorgan, now the University of South Wales. During my nurse training, it was the only field that felt right to me.

My personal experience is what drives me. My cousin died of a drugs overdose when I was younger and I felt that this was one of the few places where I could make a difference.  

As a mental health nurse, no two days are the same. You can wake up in the morning with your day set out and then one phone call can completely throw you.

People only ever think of the negatives aspects of what we deal with, but there are lots of happy times. It’s the patients you discharge and then hear are doing okay, that's the memorable stuff.  

Quite often, substance abuse can have a bad press. A lot of our patients neglect themselves. People neglect their physical health and their mental health because their substance misuse is the prime focus.

Some people don’t have a GP for instance, so then you’re their GP/social worker/drug worker all rolled into one. But it is rewarding to see the success stories when people are on the road to recovery, maybe even in full time employment, which quite a few of them are.

A day in my life

This is a really important vitamin injection for people who are alcohol dependent. Alcohol tends to deplete the brain of nutrients, and quite often, can cause alcohol-related dementia and short-term memory problems.

The drug is given more as a preventative measure to someone who has just started to develop those sort of symptoms. Quite often with an alcohol problem, people don’t tend to look after themselves, or eat as they should.

As a rule, we give a course of ten injections to people with an alcohol dependence. We tend to do a lot of memory tests – then hopefully after the injections, we can see that there’s a significant improvement in their memory. Obviously, as long as they’re drinking, that’s not going to continue – the more they drink, the more impaired their memory is going to get. 

I’d never discourage anyone from getting into this profession. To be a nurse can sometimes be difficult, there are time constraints, staff shortages, all those things that are so highly publicised but I’d tell anyone not to be discouraged.

Mental health nursing is one of the most rewarding jobs you can do. Just to know that you’ve had that input into helping someone that’s really needed that help is so rewarding."

Pictures and interview

Lorna Cabble is a Photojournalism student from Cardiff. "My favourite thing to do is document people and their stories. I love being able to provide a voice for them with my camera and in the future I aspire to be able to do this all over the world.  

I have thoroughly enjoyed being able to document this experience and from it, I have learnt that nurses are incredible people – there’s so much more to their job than people realise, and I hope to do a lot more work with them in the future."

With thanks to Cwm Taf University Health Board.