A mental health nursing student from Bournemouth University has won the Nursing Student award at the 2022 Royal College of Nursing (RCN) awards.
Dave Richens picked up his prize in recognition for his work to set up the voluntary Drink N Drugs initiative.
Drink N Drugs provides help and support to addicts who still use drugs or drink alcohol, people in recovery or abstinence, families and friends of addicts and healthcare professionals.
His success reflects a remarkable turnaround in his own fortunes, having been inspired to establish the initiative after experiencing addiction to opioid medication himself after brain surgery.
Drink N Drugs offers a range of services from volunteers and health professionals including counselling and psychotherapy, hypnotherapy to help change habits and auricular acupuncture to help the mental, physical and emotional issues that addicts face. They also offer a two-year professional and peer support package. The team’s social media channels and website are managed by people who have experienced various forms of addictions themselves, meaning that Drink N Drugs is able to offer support from both a healthcare professional’s and an addict’s perspective.
“I never thought I'd be clean from drugs and doing what I’m doing,” Dave told the RCN Awards. “In the darkest moments I found myself sleeping rough, having previously worked in the ambulance service for ten years, responding to patients like me who had possibly overdosed or had poor mental health and wanted to end it all.”
Dave set up Drink N Drugs in 2020 and joined Bournemouth University’s BSc (Hons) Mental Health Nursing course the following year. He continues his voluntary work alongside his studies.
“I’m living proof that if you work hard enough, anyone can do it and, most importantly, maintain it long-term. I know that with the right tools, support and guidance, others can get clean and sober, and be able to live happier, more productive and prosperous lives,” he continued.
Dave was one of fourteen winners at the RCN Nursing Awards which recognise those whose pioneering projects have improved patient care and services. The recipients were revealed at a ceremony at the RCN’s headquarters in London.
Dr Teresa Burdett, Principal Academic in Mental Health Nursing at BU, said: "Dave has clearly demonstrated his absolute commitment to mental health nursing, his tenacious spirit and definitely wanting to support the individual. A well-deserved award, well done indeed!"
On collecting his award, Dave told the RCN, “I’m completely blown away to win this award and shine a much-needed spotlight on this cause. It is a fantastic way to thank those volunteers and healthcare professionals who donate their time, experience and qualifications to work alongside me to make this project possible.”