How I Got Here: Carol-Anne Murphy, nurse consultant (CAMHS)

Carol-Anne Murphy Nurse consultant (CAMHS), North West Boroughs Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust
Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Carol-Anne Murphy, nurse consultant (CAMHS), North West Boroughs Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, on her career to date.

Carol-Anne Murphy: “I soaked up skills and asked the ‘daft’ questions others may have felt too silly to ask”
Carol-Anne Murphy: “I soaked up skills and asked the ‘daft’ questions others may have felt too silly to ask”

Change of plans

On leaving school in 1982, I was uncertain about my next steps. I knew I didn’t want to go to university, and my parents didn’t push me. I was thinking of a career in accountancy, but on a trip to the bank one day, I saw a sign in the job centre that sent me on a completely unexpected path. It was a large board asking for people who were “caring, bright, good at communicating, eager to learn and generally get on with others”. The sign was an advert for Registered Mental Health Nurses (RMN), a branch of nursing I knew nothing about.

On arriving home and breaking the news that I was thinking about being a nurse, the response was not what I envisaged. Apparently, my biological mum was a nurse (I was adopted as a baby) but I had never known this.

Too academic for nursing?

Applying to train as an RMN was relatively straightforward; however, I recall the interview panel being concerned that I “may be too academic to be a nurse” and asked if I thought the training would stimulate me enough. I made sure I grasped every opportunity, making sure I was never bored and always asked to observe new experiences. It is ironic that now we have discussions about nursing being too academic and not practical enough.

In 1983, student nurses in Scotland spent the first 18 months of training with the learning disability nurses and the general nurses. I had placements on a busy general medical ward, a general surgical ward, A&E and obstetrics. I surprised myself at my ability to undertake the “nursey tasks” I was not confident in. I soaked up skills and asked the “daft” questions others may have felt too silly to ask. I always maintain there is no such thing as a daft question!

Learning from colleagues

One of my training placements was in a child and adolescent mental health service (CAMHS) inpatient facility which had children’s and adolescent units. Here was a chance to intervene early and to involve the whole family, what an honour.

From 1987 until 2008 I worked my way up the nursing ladder, mainly in CAMHS settings. I learned from members of the multi-disciplinary team (MDT) but also realised I had to “keep up” with new nurses coming through. I was able to work in inpatients, community settings – including youth offending teams – as well as different project work. Funding was made available for me to do the degree in professional studies in nursing (incorporating the CAMHS specialist course) then later on do the MSc in leadership and management.

Learning never stops

While studying for my MSc I achieved the ultimate goal of becoming a nurse consultant. Previously, I was told if I wanted to climb the career ladder in CAMHS, I would have to “go into management”. The nurse consultant role allowed me to lecture in university, providing me with an opportunity to influence nurses of the future and to raise the profile of CAMHS.

Being a nurse consultant has also allowed me to influence CAMHS locally and nationally in my extended role within the Quality Network for Community CAMHS (part of the Royal College of Psychiatry). I never tire of meeting with students and with promoting the field of nursing that has given me so much satisfaction. So much so that instead of retiring when I could in 2019, I took one month off then returned to my role part time. I still have lots to give and, more importantly, lots to learn.


  1. Be patient – don’t rush to climb the career ladder before you can do so competently. Confidence and competence are easily mistaken and can be costly.

  2. Never be afraid to ask the “daft question”.

  3. Work as part of a team, no matter what stage you are at.

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