Health visitors are registered nurses who visit, support and educate families with children, from pregnancy to the age of five, promoting good health and preventing illness.
Health visitors work as part of a primary healthcare team, assessing the health needs of individuals, families and the wider community. They aim to promote good health and prevent illness by offering practical help and advice.
The role involves working within a community setting, often visiting people in their own homes. It involves supporting new parents and pre-school children. Working as a health visitor may also include tackling the impact of social inequality on health and working closely with at-risk or deprived groups.
- using specialist healthcare interventions to meet the health-related needs of individuals, families, groups and communities, as well as assessing and evaluating their effectiveness;
- working as part of a multi-disciplinary team, which may include GPs, midwives, community nursery nurses, health visitors’ assistants, healthcare assistants and community staff nurses;
- advising and informing new parents on issues such as feeding, sleeping, safety, physical and emotional development, weaning, immunization and other aspects of childcare;
- giving support from early pregnancy to a child’s early weeks and throughout their childhood – providing a gateway to other services as required;
- identifying risk factors and signs of concern and working with organizations to protect and safeguard children, as well as making sure families receive support during safeguarding arrangements;
- managing parent and baby clinics at surgeries, community and Sure Start children’s centres and running specialist sessions on areas such as baby massage, exercise and child development;
- providing emotional support regarding issues such as postnatal depression, bereavement, disability, family conflict and domestic violence;
- supporting government initiatives to tackle child poverty and social exclusion;
- diagnosing minor conditions and prescribing low-level medication;
- supporting and training new health visitors and support staff;
- maintaining and updating client records;
- collecting, collating and analyzing data to ensure that specific health targets are being met;
- planning and setting up health promotion displays.
To become a health visitor, you must first be a qualified and registered nurse or midwife. You then need to undertake an approved training programme in health visiting.
- an interest in health and social issues and in developing programmes that will improve public health;
- an approachable personality and the ability to get on well with and gain the trust of people of all ages and backgrounds;
- excellent communication, questioning and listening skills, as well as the ability to interpret body language and other non-verbal communication;
- interpersonal sensitivity, empathy, patience and tact;
- the ability to work independently and autonomously as well as in multidisciplinary teams;
- good time management, organizational skills and the ability to prioritize a varied workload;
- influencing skills and the ability to motivate people to make lifestyle changes;
- the emotional maturity to deal with potentially distressing issues and challenging situations;
- a willingness to take responsibility and make appropriate professional judgements with confidence.