A week in the life of a health visitor

baby

My name is Carrie and I’m a health visitor with the Hallam Health Visiting Team. I am a qualified nurse and midwife and have worked for Sheffield Children’s as a health visitor since 2013.

I’ve written a short diary to give you an insight into what a typical week looks like for a health visitor in Sheffield. If you’re interested in a career in health visiting you can find out more on the Health Careers website.

Monday

To make sure families in our area get a prompt reliable service, the Hallam team holds a weekly allocation meeting on a Monday morning.

When families have asked for support (with things like feeding, sleeping or if mum is feeling really down) we make sure that a health visitor or nursery nurse is assigned to each family to provide the support they need. Health visitors are allocated to families where mum is still pregnant and families that have recently moved in to the area. Health visitors and nursery nurses often visit families together so we can provide the right blend of support.

At the meeting I was allocated two new births, a development review and a family who had recently moved into my area where there were safeguarding issues. I’ll see the new babies within the next couple of weeks, the development review next month and the family who are new to the area as soon as possible. I add these to my diary and arrange for the appointment letters to be sent out.

In the afternoon I have an antenatal visit, also known as a pre-birth visit. I really enjoy meeting families during the antenatal period. This visit allows time for the health visitor to explore the emotional aspects of pregnancy and the physical and emotional impacts having a baby can have on a relationship and family.

Today’s visit is with parents expecting their first child who are very excited about meeting their baby. We discuss how the parents feel about the pregnancy and meeting their new baby, and the importance of attachment and bonding starting in the antenatal period. This includes touching and talking to your bump, baby’s emotional and physical development and changes into the postnatal period.

We explore how the couple feel about becoming parents and what their experiences have been so far. It is important to hear the father’s thoughts and feelings and we try to engage dads as much as we can in all of the work we do with families.

We also talk about feeding and I let the parents know about what support will be available once the baby is born along with some more general information about the role of the health visitor.

Tuesday

Today I have a student nurse working with me getting experience of the health visitor role. We go to see a family with an 13 day old baby for the new birth visit.

As health visitors, we work with families from before the baby is born, which places us in an ideal position for spotting any problems early and giving families the support they need.

Mum is breastfeeding and we discuss the wealth of health benefits breastfeeding offers, both for baby and for mum. Infant feeding is a large part of our role and we work closely with the breastfeeding support workers to offer families guidance and support.

The next visit is supporting a mum with postnatal depression. Health visitors work with other health professionals including GPs, nurseries, midwives, speech and language therapists, Children’s Centres, social care, intervention and prevention workers and the perinatal (immediately before and after birth) mental health services.

Supporting mum and giving her time to talk about how she is feeling helps me to tailor the care and services that she and her family need.

I find supporting families with complex needs is extremely rewarding as a health visitor.

Wednesday

Today I have my weekly ‘well baby clinic’ at the GP surgery I link with. Families can come here to get their child weighed and discuss anything that’s on their mind including:

  • feeding and weight issues
  • weaning
  • sleep management
  • postnatal depression
  • behaviour management
  • development issues
  • concerns about speech and language
  • oral hygiene
  • returning back to work
  • being ready for school

I really enjoy the variety of issues that people come to me with and these clinics are a great learning opportunity for newly qualified health visitors and students.

My next visit is to complete a two year development review on a child who I have been working with due to domestic abuse in the family. We work closely with the police and domestic abuse agencies to ensure that families receive the most appropriate support. Domestic abuse and safeguarding children is a large part of the health visiting role and we receive regular training and updates on this subject. We also have guidance and support from safeguarding supervision to ensure we support the family correctly.

The Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ) is a tool used for the development review. It focuses on areas of communication, gross motor, fine motor, problem solving and personal/social skills. The questionnaire is posted out to parents so they can work through it before the visit. During the visit, we have a discussion about the child’s development and any concerns the parents may have.

Thursday

Today we have a ‘team around the family’ meeting. This is a meeting involving many different health professionals that is set up specially for one family.

The meeting takes place at the child’s nursery, a location where mum feels comfortable and doesn’t have to worry about childcare. Mum suffers with depression so we work closely with intervention workers, early years workers, nursery key workers, speech and language workers to make sure that the child and the family are getting all the support they need.

Afterwards I write up notes of what happened at the meeting. Completing clear and accurate records quickly after every contact with a family is an essential part of the health visiting role. It’s also part of The Code for nurses and midwives.

Friday

I have my monthly meeting with the midwife who is linked to the same GP surgery as me. I have known and worked with this midwife for a long time and have a very good working relationship with her. We discuss all the pregnant women due in a particular month and their needs such as:

  • if mum is experienced or if this is her first baby
  • if the pregnancy is straightforward or complex
  • any needs other family members have

These mums are assigned to health visitors in my team in the Monday allocation meeting.

I always try to make sure that messages from parents and health professionals are returned on a daily basis, but Friday is when I double check this. I also make sure that all the electronic records and referrals are up to date and complete.

You might also be interested in...

Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust
Sheffield Children's@SheffChildrens
#SCHstaff Claire's #ProudestmMoments "Guiding my first pre-registration pharmacist through their training and exam"… https://t.co/iTJQN2Tjt8

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