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Posted on Jan 13 2022 by Fiona Bailey

A specialist nurse who has worked in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) for more than 20 years has opened up about the reality of working within the department.

Dale Goodacre began his career as a Healthcare Assistant (HCA) and was able to progress with support of St Andrew’s Healthcare. He became a registered nurse in 2007 and says that since then he has seen a lot of changes within the service at the Charity over the years.

Dale said: “Caring for young people between the ages of 13 and 18 with complex mental health conditions can be hard. There’s no getting away from the fact that we’re looking after some of the most poorly young people in the country and they all deserve care and treatment to support them to grow into healthy adults.  

“CAMHS is now based in Smyth House and is made up of three wards, Sitwell, Stowe and Seacole. As well as a variety of activities, all patients also have access to the St Andrew’s College which is based on the top floor of the building and run by Headteacher Cheryl Smith.

“In terms of staffing, new nurses who join the service are guided through their preceptorship and also access specialist CAMHS training. They are supported by a named mentor to develop their skills and always work alongside senior nursing colleagues.”

In addition, there are loads of additional training available also including Trauma informed Care and DBT skills coaching. Once nurses have completed their preceptorship the Charity can support higher level or specialist training to support career progression.

Dale added: “We also recognise the emotional impact that working in CAMHS inpatient services can have on the staff teams and have really focussed on the support available including protected times for reflective practice, debriefs and supervision. We also provide ward based Compassion Focussed Staff Support groups.

“Our ethos of care for all our young patients is quite simple. Our aim is to enable the young people who come and stay with us to live well and to their full potential in the least restrictive environment possible.

“We recognise that many have had some really difficult experiences and need consistent, compassionate support to build trusting relationships. The whole MDT, including the school, work really closely together to create a supportive team that can share ideas and identify with the young person and their families the best care and treatment plan. We are fortunate to have some great resources in CAMHS, including the college and a variety of ward spaces including therapy kitchens, games room and outside spaces.

“The CAMHS career path can be varied, compelling, interesting and extremely rewarding. I urge anyone who wants to make a real difference, to seriously consider coming along and meeting the team and the patients because working here is one of the best things I ever did.”