Health visiting is one of the most misunderstood professions in the UK. My nearest and dearest aren’t even sure what I do. Let me try and shed some light on who health visitors are and what we do.
Who are Health Visitors?
Health visitors, our official title “Specialist Community Public Health Nurses”. Health visitors have to be either qualified midwives or nurses, who then undergo a post-graduate diploma in public health at either masters or degree level. In total, health visitors have a minimum of four years of training to become specialist nurses. Our speciality is public health, supporting healthy growth and development of children under 5.
What do we do?
Our role is to empower and support parents and families who have children under 5 to raise healthy children. This has become increasingly complex and difficult with several external factors such as political changes, NHS cutbacks, a retiring workforce and increasing caseloads.
The NHS service varies hugely depending on where you live. The minimum contact offered should be 5 core visits to all families. At these contacts, health visitors measure the growth and development of babies and toddlers by visiting families at home, at child health clinics, in GP surgeries and at children’s centres.
After these core contacts, health visitors offer extra assistance and encouragement with queries and challenges around a child’s; feeding, nutrition, sleep, play, speech and language, and guidance and boundaries, toileting either on a one to one basis or in groups.
Health visitors play a key role in assessing and supporting parental needs such as in the difficulty of becoming new parents, mental health, domestic abuse and vulnerability. We also have a front-line role in identifying children at risk of harm. We are crucial professionals in identifying abuse such as sexual, physical, emotional and neglect.
As a profession, health visitors work to reinforce positive parenting with evidence-based research. We strive to respect choice and know parents are the experts of their children. I encourage and empower the families I see with research-driven health advice to minimise the risk of harm to their children and encourage healthy growth and children who thrive.
I love my job. I am passionate about being a specialist nurse and I feel grateful and privileged to be in a position and a profession that can make a difference to families in seriously stressful times.