• 29 September 2020
  • 8 min read

What Do Interviewers Look For In Child And Adolescent Mental Health Services CAMHS Nurses?

  • Rachel Owen
    Ward Manager
    • Mat Martin
    • Richard Gill
    • Aubrey Hollebon
    • Matt Farrah
  • 1
  • 811
"To work in CAMHS, a comprehensive knowledge of the Psychiatric disorders and their presentations is key."

Mental Health Nurse, Rachel, examines which extra skills are required in CAMHS Nursing and gives her advice on how to succeed in your next CAMHS Interview.

Topics covered in this article

Working In Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services

Clinical Knowledge & Legal Frameworks

Problem Solving Skill & Risk Assessment

Personality, Behavioural Skills & Attitude

Attending The Interview & Creating Your CV

Working In Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services

During my time as a Manager, I have set up and conducted many interviews for a full range of staff, from Health Care Support workers to Band 6 Mental Health Practitioners.

Working in CAMHS is a highly specialised area of Mental Health.

Sadly, in many Nurse training programmes there is not a great deal of focus on this as a branch in Mental Health.

When nursing in this area, there is a unique set of skills and qualities that are required.

Child development and Attachment processes are key areas of knowledge for staff in this area.

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Unlike in Adult Mental Health, due to the chronological age of our patients and their developmental stage, staff in CAMHS have a role of “loco parentis”.

For myself, one of the publications that helped me in developing my skills as a CAMHS Nurse was Angela Sergeant’s handbook for practitioners “Working within child and adolescent mental health inpatient services”.

When creating questions for an interview to recruit staff into our service, I am looking for a number of things.

Clinical Knowledge & Legal Frameworks

To work in CAMHS, a comprehensive knowledge of the Psychiatric disorders and their presentations is key.

In addition to this, increasingly presentations that are more “social” are presenting to CAMHS.

Children experiencing ACE’s (Adverse Childhood Experiences) are presenting with “emotional difficulties” such as affect regulation problems.

These difficulties can often manifest as self-harm, suicidality, challenging behaviour etc. and are becoming increasingly common in CAMHS presentations.

When conducting interviews I will often want to hear from the candidate their views on Multi agency working to meet the needs of the fore mentioned cases and how “iatrogenic” a focus of mental health interventions can be for these young people.

Formulation skills are also key to look at the young person’s difficulties, to look at the young person from all aspects of their lives, to provide us with a structured approach to understanding the young person’s difficulties.

If an interviewee can present their answers in a formulaic manner, this always impresses.

A knowledge of Legal frameworks in Mental Health applies to CAMHS.

The Mental Health Act is just as applicable in CAMHS.

In addition to the MHA, The Children Act 1989, The Health and Social Care Act, Mental Capacity Act 2012 are all applicable in CAMHS due to the age range that we work with.

In this section, I would probably give a scenario question.

For example, a clinical presentation of a young person being assessed in A&E following an overdose.

I would be looking for the candidate’s ability to take a detailed history of family history, education, any history of trauma and what their formulation of the young person’s presenting difficulties is.

Alternatively, I might ask them to discuss their knowledge of Legal Frameworks applicable to CAMHS.

I would be looking for a flexibility in their attitude to the “least restrictive” manner of treatment options available.

The implications of detention under the MHA are far reaching for a young person and awareness of this is key.

Problem Solving Skill & Risk Assessment

One of the key skills in CAMHS is the ability to keep a “calm mind”.

Young people are looking to us, as the Professional is to help solve their problems and be their “island of calm”.

When interviewing I am always looking for staff who come across as calm, collected and good in a crisis.

When composing interview questions, I will include at least two or three scenarios to try to ascertain how an individual will manage a complex clinical situation.

By posing these types of questions, I am looking for how they look at a problem from “360 degrees”, how they focus on the patient and their colleagues’ wellbeing, how safe their management of any given situation is and how capable they are of asking for help and guidance.

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During an interview, I am looking to see what sources of information an interviewee might tap into for their risk assessments; risk assessment is a dynamic process and changes all the time, therefore our assessments need to be equally dynamic.

In this section, I might use a scenario question, for example; a newly admitted young person has barricaded themselves into a room on the ward.

You are the Nurse in Charge, how might you manage this situation and what factors might you consider.

What is key here is the ability to consider the specific young person, the other patients on the ward and the staff team.

Alternatively, I might ask about their experience of risk assessment tools and what their views are of risk assessment tools.

Personality, Behavioural Skills & Attitude

There is no avoiding the fact that CAMHS is a difficult job.

That said, it is an incredibly rewarding job.

To work in CAMHS you need a resilient personality.

There are qualities in interviewees that I am always looking for; genuineness, empathy, warmth, professionalism.

Many of the questions I write for interviews, I am looking for these attributes.

In our service, we are used to working with teenagers who are very hard to reach/engage.

I am looking for staff who empathise with the plight of a young person experiencing mental health difficulties.

I am always looking for staff who have the skills to develop a rapport with young people.

This takes creativity and openness.

In an interview situation, I am looking for people who discuss their passion for their work and seeing things from the perspective of their patients.

Respect needs to be earned by Nurses; the young people with whom we work have often had negative experiences with adults in their families, at school, other statutory agencies.

I am looking for staff who can see that we have to prove to our patients that we are trustworthy.

In this section I might ask them about a patient they have worked well with, how did they engage that individual in a “therapeutic alliance”, what skills did they employ and what are their views on boundaries in a therapeutic relationship.

Maintenance of boundaries is key when working in CAMHS.

It is key that we work hard to create a therapeutic alliance, however we do not want to become “indispensable” to the point that the young person cannot cope unless they can access us.

We want to create skills and independence in the young people we work with.

Attending The Interview & Creating Your CV

I would always advise candidates to come and have a look around the service where you are applying for a job.

This shows a keenness to the employer and gives you an opportunity to consider any questions you may like to pose at the interview.

Call me old fashioned, but I like people to look smart for an interview.

It shows a diligence and professionalism.

Take your time when answering questions and do not be afraid to ask the interviewer to repeat or clarify a question.

Be on time and present yourself in a polite manner.

It never ceases to amaze me that the NMC has a Code of Conduct that highlights honesty and integrity and yet so many candidates attend for interviews looking unkempt, are late or appear disinterested.

In relation to creating your CV, the section I am most interested in is the additional information.

Take the time to describe, “Who you are”, what you are passionate about and your experiences in life.

Any experience you may have in relation to working with young people is key.

Let me know in the comments your thoughts on working in CAMHS and what I've said about the interview process - let's chat there!

Oh, and please Like this article to let me know you enjoyed it - thank you!

About the author

  • Rachel Owen
    Ward Manager

I am the Team Lead for the Intensive Community Support Team in North Wales. Our team covers the whole of North Wales and is a Tier 4 service. I have been an RMN for 20yrs and my background is in Inpatient CAMHS. I also have experience of managing GAU’s and HDU’s.

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  • Rachel Owen
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About the author

  • Rachel Owen
    Ward Manager

I am the Team Lead for the Intensive Community Support Team in North Wales. Our team covers the whole of North Wales and is a Tier 4 service. I have been an RMN for 20yrs and my background is in Inpatient CAMHS. I also have experience of managing GAU’s and HDU’s.

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    • Julia Orege 26 days ago
      Julia Orege
    • Julia Orege
      26 days ago

      Hi Rachel, your article is enlightening, esp for those of us working with adults in general nursing. I really like ... read more