Zim nurse wins award for work with gangs

A Zimbabwean nurse has been given an award in recognition of the innovative methods of engagement she uses to work with young people and families involved in gangs in London. Public Health Nurse Dorcas Gwata was awarded the Nursing Standard Mental Health Nurse 2015 for her work with this hard-to-reach group.

Dorcas Gwata at the awards ceremony in London recently.
Dorcas Gwata at the awards ceremony in London recently.

Gwata works in the Westminster Integrated Gangs Unit (IGU) and the Central North West London (CNWL) Foundation Trust's Westminster Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services team to help improve the health of socially stigmatised, deprived young people associated with gangs. The team works with social services, police and community protection.

Some of the adolescents have developmental problems such as learning difficulties as well as substance misuse. The intrepid nurse meets young people in cafes, prisons, at home, and in youth clubs. “We have taken what works in the clinic into the streets,” she said.

“Anxiety is a major problem. These young people feel the need to carry knives from one part of the borough to another for safety reasons. Young girls are particularly at risk – 20 percent of girls in Westminster are involved in gangs. They are at very high risk of sexual exploitation and, subsequently, self-harm. Both males and females are at risk of kidnapping through gang activity,” she added.

Some 80% of her clients are from minority backgrounds, which raises social and cultural challenges in terms of parenting and identity for parents raising children in the Diaspora. Culture is significant, both as a protective factor as well as risk factor in these cases.

Gwata’s clinical supervisor, Dr Tami Kramer, said the nurse’s outstanding knowledge and skills had secured her success in a difficult field. “Dorcas is able to engage young people who are not primarily looking for help and are often initially dismissive of their need for professional help,” she said.

Gwata paid tribute to her roots, saying “Ultimately most of the innovative skills that I brought into the role have come from my HIV and Mental Health work in Zimbabwe, Tanzania and Uganda and my own ongoing work with Health/HIV within the African Diaspora in the UK. The award also goes a long way to acknowledge the great contribution that African/Zimbabwean nurses bring into the NHS.”

Post published in: Health

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