CAMHS Specialist Nurse, Vicky Rodrigues,  gives us the low down on an average day for her and her team

What time does your day start?

My day starts about 7am with a cup of tea and BBC news. I then catch the train to work. I get off early and walk about 20 minutes to the office which gives me some thinking and planning day – it’s great for de-stressing and I get my 'steps' in.

What is the first thing you do on arrival at work?

I’ve already checked my emails on the train so the first thing I do is check my diary. Normally I will have meetings or supervision with the clinicians to start with.

What would a typical day be like?

I work with children who have challenging behaviour at school, home or in the community. If we’re meeting with school staff, we have to meet at 8am. I usually meet with the head of year SENCO (Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator) and a form teacher to review a child’s behaviour at school, or review their plan.

I am part of the reach and resilience team in CAMHS targeting the BME community. This is part of our alliance with other partner agencies including education, social care and community CAMHS. My work here includes meeting with faith leaders to explore challenges and stigma around mental health in the BME community. We deliver training and workshops in the community. I’m also part of Cllr Bramble’s Young Black Men’s group which looks at how partner agencies can come together to improve outcomes in the young black community.

Everyone is different
I’m the lead for the user participation group in Hackney. I work with a group of young people who inspire me to do user involvement differently. We run a book club where an author visits us with books and young people can discuss them. We also were awarded money to run a gardening project. I love it because we look at the young people’s needs and find activities that cater for them. If a young person is very anxious, they may find the book club a more comfortable environment, or if they have behavioural difficulties, the gardening project could help them to channel their energy. User participation is about allowing young people to shape and develop our services on different levels – our young people review our paperwork and have developed a CAMHS safety plan, user participation leaflet and a presentation.

I’m part of the senior management team for CAMHS in Hackney so I attend the senior management meeting where we look at the strategic plans for CAMHS, review training and staffing and our work with partner agencies.

I am also a clinical team lead and manage a multi-disciplinary team. We meet weekly to discuss and review young people and children who have been referred to our conduct disorder pathway. It’s an opportunity to review goals that families have set and look at our plans. It’s a wonderful team. We’re a very respectful team and we head different psychological viewpoints and work to improve the lives of children and young people in Hackney.

What is the key objective of your role/when you assess someone?

I think my role is primarily to deliver a good service and to increase access for children and young people with challenging behaviour within the borough. We do this through partnership with families, adopting an outreach approach with schools, delivering a service which is reflective of the community we serve and provides evidence based practice for conduct disorder.

What is it like for families and carers a family member is referred to CAMHS?

When families come to our pathway, they’re often very distressed and weary of the interventions they’ve been offered. They feel blamed for their child’s behaviour and can lack confidence in their parenting ability. When they meet with us, we develop individual plans with young people and families to set goals and identify what they want to achieve. Often they are surprised at our flexibility. If a parent is at work during the day, we’ll meet them at home after work. Or if a young person is having challenges at school outside the borough, we’ll still go to that school.

Families in crisis often feel hopeless. When we join with them, it’s about developing the parents to feel skilled to deal with the challenges they face. We offer parenting groups, family therapy and social skills groups all targeted at children with conduct disorder.

What’s the funniest that’s happened to you in your role?

I guess there are things that happen that make us smile or laugh out loud. For me it’s the things that stay with you when working with young people. Those conversations that get repeated by young people or their carers when you’re not really sure you’re making a difference in their lives. Recently an ex client rang up and wanted to see me. He was having issues with his girlfriend and felt his life was at a crossroads. He is now twenty years old and I first saw him as a teenager aged 12 when he was struggling to manage his emotions within school and home. Seeing him now older and wiser, reflecting on his situation made me feel so proud that in some small way I had something to do with that. In the users group I am often provided with an opportunity to see how young people, being teenagers, interact with each other and the clinicians. It’s such a joy to see them just being teenagers, enjoying the activities. Recently we took a group of users to the Garden shop and something as simple as picking flowers for the CAMHS garden brought so much excitement and joy - it was like seeing things through their eyes. So refreshing.

What do you bring to the team that is different from the other participants?

My humour and my laugh – people locate me by my laugh! I am completely committed to working with people in Hackney and making a sustainable difference to people and their families. I feel privileged that I have a team who are equally committed. I lead by example. There is nothing I wouldn’t do which I’d ask my team to do.

What has been the feedback from families?

The feedback is really good and very positive. Families appreciate that we listen to them. One client did an acronym of what CAMHS is to them:

“Professionals who;

Come into our lives at a time of struggle and strife.

Act as a bridge in manging family life and adolescent challenges.

Manage working partnerships, community cohesion and integrated lifestyles.

Help with individual needs, personal goals and long-term change.

Successfully change attitudes and concepts, give relief and hope, and change lives”

Do you finish work on time?

It depends. I actively encourage my team to finish on time, but we have some flexibility in how we work. If our young people and families have special needs, we accommodate this.

How do you relax after a shift?

I like yoga and pilates.

What attracted you to this work?

I worked as an adult community psychiatric nurse for about 12 years. It always struck me that my clients would say that when they were younger they had no one to talk to, challenges at their school and they felt that if they’d had interventional support at that time it would have made things different.

Why do you keep on doing your job?

Because the work’s not done.

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