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'Training to be a health visitor takes a leap of faith'

  • Comments (4)

Being a health visitor has characteristics that makes it different from many other nursing roles. You don’t wear a uniform, you manage your own caseload, you visit clients in their own homes and rarely carry out a nursing procedure.

It can be difficult for nurses to contemplate so much change to the way they work.

So the lack of certainty about health visitor jobs highlighted last week in Nursing Times’ exclusive report  will not help nurses to make that move into health visitor training. Few nurses will be interested in training for a year if they think there will not be a job at the end of it.

What a lost opportunity, because health visiting is an interesting and fulfilling role that offers nurses a different way of working.

When I cycle through my old patch in North London I vividly remember families in my caseload, including the large family I visited who were told their baby with a physical disability would not walk. The day she took her first steps at the age of two years her father rang me to come immediately to see and celebrate this momentous moment in their family life.

These relationships are what makes health visiting so rewarding.

If the government wants to carry out its strategy to increase the number of health visitors by 4,200 over the next four years it will need to find a way to ensure that the jobs are there for the new health visitor trainees.

  • Comments (4)

Readers' comments (4)

  • Natalie Jewell

    Agreed we need more health visitors. But I worry about where they are going to come from. We will lose school nurses, district nurses, children's nurses, midwives, and more besides... None of these groups can afford to lose their staff. Many of us move round from one speciality to another as we decide we need a change or our circumstances change, out in the community especially we are an ageing workforce. We need to look at the bigger picture - the HV Implementation is a ticking time bomb for the rest of us.

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  • Liz Fletcher

    A great route to go down to boost your career opportunities is in Public Health. There are many ways to get a qualification in Public Health Practice. For a Masters in Public Health, you would need to have either received a second class bachelor degree or higher in a related discipline or be a registered nurse or midwife. There are many brilliant Universities out there that offer such a course, for example, The University of Southamptons Health Sciences Faculty has many well-respected courses available. Find out more about the University of Southampton’s MSc Public Health Masters</a on the Health Sciences web-site at

    This Public Health Masters can be completed in 1 year full-time or up to 5 years part-time, making it easier for anyone who may be interested.

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  • Anonymous

    The BSc public health practice in specialist community nursing (or community nursing degree as it is sometimes know) is a one year course for healthcare professionals who want to move their career forward. It is only open to registered nurses and midwives and places are dependent on obtaining sponsorship from the National Health Service. This programme is designed to develop your knowledge and skills; helping you to provide evidence-based public health practice to several different groups.

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  • Anonymous

    Health visiting is the best job in the world! I never knew what they were before I became a nurse, but I discovered them whilst working in sexual health services and realised I might like it.

    The breadth of the work uses all your knowledge and sends you scurrying off for more. My training was only the start of it! Health visiting means constantly responding to new research, daft health scares promulgated by the tabloids and all the myths about parenting you ever heard. It's never dull.

    You see people who don't need your treatment, so you need to respect them and their space. You're not in control of what happens in homes, so you can't just go in and act like a nurse giving directions. You have to be prepared to debate and discuss issues and win your client's confidence. Then they might listen to you... or not! It helps to be open to their ideas too - you can always learn new things.

    The bad side? Having to delegate visits to a team who don't have the skills a real HV would possess and then being prepared to deal with consequences because you remain professionally accountable if they miss something important, give bad advice or just offend your clients. It's so different from nursing that it's hard to prepare an RGN to cope, let alone an HCA. It's not a job for well meaning amateurs, especially if child protection issues are involved.

    The proposed increase will start us on the path to getting back to a proper professional service users can rely upon. I'm in favour, but it's just the beginning.

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