Health visitors: who they are and what they do

We sat down with our Head of Midwifery – and practising health visitor – Kate, to find out more about how she supports families.

Little girl sat on the floor pointing at a book surrounded by blocks and letters

Pregnancy blog, 18/08/2017

Kate heads up the Tommy’s midwifery team, who guide our Pregnancy Information Service. When she’s not answering questions on our PregnancyLine, Facebook page or email, she works as a health visitor.

To celebrate Health Visitor Week 2017, we asked Kate a few questions about health visiting and what parents should expect from their visits.

So, Kate, what exactly is a health visitor?

The role of the health visitor is to support the health and development of babies and children from birth until they are 5 years old. The scope of the role is wide and can range from helping parents to work through challenges of feeding, routines, and behaviour, as well as providing public health information.

In addition, offering support for parental mental health, domestic abuse and safeguarding. A health visitor is just one part of the network of professionals who work together to support families.

What does a typical day look like as a health visitor?

There is no typical day! But there are some routine visits that are offered to all families as part of the ‘Healthy Child Programme’ which parents can expect. These include:

  • an antenatal visit
  • a new birth visit when the baby is about 10-14 days old
  • a support visit at 6-8 weeks after the birth, with the focus on maternal mental health
  • a development reviews for the child at 1 and 2 years old.

Alongside this, we also run child health clinics for growth monitoring and support as well as extra home visits to families if needed. We often have meetings with other professionals such as GPs, social workers and those working in children’s centres. It is a flexible service and is led by the needs of the child and what support the parents feel that they need.

What do you tell parents who are struggling with their mental health?

It’s really important to talk to someone about how you are feeling, anyone that you feel comfortable with whether it is your partner, friends and family, health visitor or GP.

Many parents experience some form of anxiety, depression, low mood or other mental health concern during pregnancy and beyond; it is absolutely not reflective on the type of parent you are or your ability to parent.

As a health visitor, I would always offer ‘listening visits’ so the parent has a safe confidential space to talk about how they are feeling with no judgement. There are lots of different services available depending on where you live which your health visitor will be able to talk to you about. They may also ask for your consent to let your GP know how you are feeling so that both professionals can work together to support you. Any referral to any other professional and service would only be done with your consent (unless there is a significant risk).

Why did you train to be a health visitor?

You have a great opportunity, as a health visitor, to provide ongoing care for families, ensure continuity and to be able to build ongoing relationships. I am particularly interested and passionate about mental health and in my role I am able to provide that ongoing support and tailor this to the needs of the parent.

In addition, it has also provided me with the opportunity to extend my midwifery knowledge into early years support, which is a critical time for a child’s health and development.

Why are you proud to be a health visitor?

I am proud to be a health visitor as it is a privilege to work so closely with families and to be there at such a critical time for parents and young children. The service focusses on a strengths-based approach, so is very positive and allows for building on parent’s own confidence and knowledge as well as being child focussed.

 

Find out more about Health Visitor Week 2017 on Twitter at #ProudtobeaHV and #HVweek

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