The big question: how can we highlight the value of the public health nursing team?

07 December 2018

This month we ask: How can we highlight the value of the public health nursing team?


Jenny Harmer

HV, Central London Community Healthcare
NHS Trust, Merton

After several years of reduced investment and, for many, huge changes in working practice, it’s easy to see why we struggle to feel valued or even value our own worth.

There seems to be a wider lack of awareness of what we do and how we do it – the diversity in what we do makes it difficult to pigeonhole us. We’re a dynamic profession and research-based evidence shapes our practice. We need to take a bite-sized approach to inform others about health visiting. Different aspects of my work have come up in conversations with my family, mum friends, Women’s Institute and neighbours, and on Twitter – we shouldn't underestimate the effect of our own reach.

In the last year, I’ve been working with colleagues and commissioners on developing our antenatal offer and our breastfeeding support. This has helped to show commissioners what we do; and it’s helped me to recognise how much they value our work, but with budget reductions from government, they can’t always reflect this.

Big thanks to Jenny and Amy Dobson for their I am an HV podcast on the recent conference.

See bit.ly/HV_podcast

Michelle Ostrowski

HV, Shropshire Community NHS Trust

The media would be an ideal way to raise our profile. When I’ve watched TV soaps there never seems to be an HV when a character has a baby. If they are shown they’re usually portrayed in a negative light: the social services spy, or telling mums what to do. It would be great to see a storyline such as Stacey’s postpartum psychosis where the HV could have been instrumental in her diagnosis and treatment. A bullying storyline could also be used to show the support SNs give. It would also be ideal when a public health story hits the news to have an expert such as an HV give their opinion. I can’t have been the only one cringing recently at a daytime show’s breastfeeding expert.

Lauren Herd

Trainee HV, NHS Grampian, and MSc advancing nursing practice student,
Robert Gordon University

We’ve all witnessed the Sir David Attenborough effect. How inspiring is it, that one person can raise so much awareness and evoke change? Perhaps this is something our profession needs, a passionate spokesperson to raise the profile of the amazing work done by HVs, SNs and CNNs, without any kind of political acquisition. As a newly appointed Global Champion of Nursing, I hope the Duchess of Cambridge will recognise the invaluable contribution every nursing discipline makes, towards creating a healthier society.

Or perhaps highlighting our value needs to come from within. Let’s strengthen the profession by creating specialist roles or getting together more to share experiences, best practice and knowledge. Let’s celebrate what it means to work in public health.

Shouting it from the rooftops is easier with social media. Perhaps harnessing this technology to engage with our communities can help publicise our role.

Perhaps we should empower our profession, as we do the families we support, to encourage investment.

Mercy Bolus

Independent HV, Hampshire

Our roles of HV, SN and CNN are not widely understood by the general public in the UK. Given that these professions require three years of training as a nurse, plus additional specialised training in public health and child development, we are best placed to support parents in nurturing their families from 0 to 19 years old.

The general public are mostly likely to hear of HVs in clinics or through a GP when they require us. How can we, the HVs, SNs and CNNs, make ourselves more visible for mothers to easily acknowledge the support we can give them? Many mothers spread the news of being a mother via social media. Could this be the way to promote the profession? Or affiliating with high street shops with poster advertisements?

Let’s not wait until mothers are referred by clinics to hear about our unique role.

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