A new study has been launched to try and identify the emotional skills and strength needed to be a successful health visitor.
The research is being masterminded by public health nursing expert Janet Gargiulo of Wrexham Glyndŵr University in Wales.
“It’s difficult to know how much stress they are experiencing or the strain they are under”
She is calling on nursing students and those already working in the sector to complete a survey in an attempt to identify key attributes vital to this branch of nursing.
“Public health nurses have to be able to cope with so many difficult situations that cause stress and strains on them, but it’s difficult to know how much stress they are experiencing or the strain they are under,” she said.
“They will be dealing with the reality of everyday life, promoting health and wellbeing, but also dealing with child abuse, domestic violence, obesity and many other issues,” said Ms Gargiulo, the university’s lead for undergraduate and postgraduate courses in specialist public health nursing.
Ms Gargiulo, who was also a health visitor for seven years, said public health nursing roles were often side-lined or overlooked because of the preventative nature of the work.
However, she noted that recent years have seen an increase in numbers of health visitors, with demand for more to enter the sector.
Accompanying this workforce trend, Ms Gargiulo said there was now more of a focus on the skills needed to work in the sector such as resilience and emotional intelligence.
However, there were questions about how to assess and measure such skills, which was one reason for her survey.
Having a better understanding of the pressures on the current workforce and skills needed to cope could help improve practice, she said.
Study into what makes ‘successful health visitor’
“My hope is that it will help improve work performance and also have a positive effect on wellbeing, which is ultimately the most important aspect of this study – to aid heath visitors to give their best to their patients,” she said.
A significant growth in health visitor workforce numbers in England followed the previous coalition government’s pledge to create 4,200 extra staff between 2011 and April 2015. The target was almost met, bringing the total health visitor workforce to just under 12,100.
However, as reported last month by Nursing Times, recent reductions in government funding for local councils, which now commission health visiting services in England, has led to plans to reduce these services and is putting posts at risk.
In contrast in Wales, health visiting and specialist community public health nursing posts are still commissioned by the government.