Out on a health visiting placement

Caroline Buttress

Faculty: Health, Education, Medicine and Social Care
School: School of Nursing and Midwifery
Course: BSc Adult Nursing
Category: Nursing and midwifery

1 August 2018

Far from the hub of busy hospital wards, health visiting is yet another avenue a trained nurse could take after qualification and with a bit of further training....

For those who aren’t entirely sure, health visitors are trained nurses or midwives that specialise essentially in pre-school (0-4) child development, but truth be told their expertise expands to far more. As well as checking that children meet their developmental milestones, they also assess family dynamics and pick up on subtle signs that may require further agency involvement such as Social Services or peri-natal mental healthcare.

These specialised nurses are helping families all over the UK and I had the fortune and privilege of spending two weeks with a fantastic team covering a large chunk of Peterborough and some surrounding villages.

During this lovely placement, several families from a variety of backgrounds invited me into their homes where we exchanged conversation, weighed and measured their babies and discussed the wellbeing of both mums and their babies. Often these informal conversations evoked some emotional responses, in these cases the health visitors showed great compassion and reassurance to the parent.

In contrast to the welcoming families, I also experienced the challenges of more hostile environments and families. Some families were suspicious of our intentions and in one particular case a family vocalised their hostility. In this instance, both my mentor and I worked together to reassure the family that we had every confidence in their ability as parents. By the end of the visit we had built a friendly and trusting rapport with the family and as a result my mentor was given a much warmer welcome the following week.

The health visitors were eager to give me hands on experience and made me feel very valued and included. I attended a couple of baby clinics and got chatting to the families, documenting their babies’ weight in the red books and giving reassurance to anxious mums.

I expressed an interest in other agencies such as mental health and social services, because I was aware that health visitors work closely with them. As a result my mentor kindly arranged for me to spend a day with a peri-natal mental health nurse and a day with a social worker. During these days I was able to see what happens after a referral is made to them. I visited mums with severe post-natal depression and observed a clinical consultation between a mother and a psychiatrist.

Whilst with the social worker we visited a mum and her twin babies who had been subjected to domestic violence. The social worker had been working with the family for some time and had supported the mother to leave her partner and move to a place of safety, Needless to say, the family had definitely benefitted from services such as health visitors and social workers and seemed happy and settled in their new home.

So that’s it in a nutshell, another fantastic placement, another team of brilliant nurses!


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