NQHV: on the right path

05 June 2019

I was under no illusion about how challenging the role of a health visitor would be, having previously worked as a Band 5 health visiting staff nurse.

I understood that there were pressures, stresses and huge responsibilities that went along with the role from observing and listening to my colleagues within the health visiting team. However, I quickly learned that being aware of these responsibilities was very different from wearing the health visitor ‘badge’.

I was lucky enough to be part of the Scottish Government’s funding to undertake the Specialist Community Public Health Nursing (SCPHN) Postgraduate Diploma on a full-time basis. I enjoyed every aspect of the health visiting course, even the mountain of academic work to be completed. The programme itself is well structured to give the student the best ‘feel’ of what life as a health visitor is like, and it’s not for everyone. The historic vision of the health visitor ‘weighing babies’ and ‘sipping tea’ couldn’t be further from the truth.

Finding my feet

Having completed the SCPHN, I felt fully equipped, although nervous, about my new role as a health visitor. I was welcomed by my team and felt like I had ‘slotted in’ nicely. The first month I felt that I was ‘finding my feet’. Answering the phone where the caller is looking for the health visitor – ‘YOU’ – was probably the most intimidating aspect at first. Luckily, I am part of an experienced and supportive team, which I feel has helped me to gain confidence in my new role. My colleagues are happy to offer support and direction in anything I lack experience in.

Many of the skills and qualities I have gained throughout my acute nursing career were easily transferred into the health visiting role. I have learned the importance of good communication and accurate record-keeping, adhering to the NMC standards and the code of conduct. Good time management and organisational skills are essential to ensure that core caseload work is being completed, with the scope to tackle those unexpected situations that can arise.

I have learned that good team- working can have a huge impact on how caseload work is shared and carried out. The role can feel quite isolating, as most of the time the health visitor is a lone worker, however, building good relationships with your team and line manager helps to provide a supportive environment, which also helps you adapt to change.

My health visiting career has begun at a crucial and exciting time. Health visiting is evolving, with more health visitors being recruited and using the principles of Getting it Right for Every Child (GIRFEC) and the Scottish Universal Health Visiting Pathway.

I reflect on my practice regularly and thinking about my journey as a newly qualified health visitor in the last year has allowed me to see how I have evolved, not only as a practitioner, but also as a person. I have gained confidence and self-belief and I am excited to see where my health visiting career takes me in the future.

What I’ve learned 

  • Health visiting is evolving with Getting it Right for Every Child (GIRFEC) and the Scottish Universal Health Visiting Pathway.
  • Being part of a supportive team is crucial to build confidence and become competent in your role.
  • Being able to reflect regularly on your practice allows you to evolve as a practitioner and confirm your strengths, as well as identify weaknesses.

Want to share your experience? If you’re a newly qualified community practitioner, and you would like to write on any aspect of your training, practice or personal journey, please email [email protected]