Night Nurse: Health Visiting

As a student nurse, we go through a variety of placements throughout our training. This is done so as to give as a broad view of the many avenues nursing has to offer and give us an inkling into what career path we’d like to follow once we qualify. Unfortunately I can only talk about my limited experiences (four placements so far) as a paediatric nursing student in the UK. For confidentiality purposes, no names shall be mentioned, no locations, and no members of staffed will be named. Aite? Aite. Let’s jump straight into it.

I didn’t like health visiting.

Don’t take it personally

This has nothing to do with the staff, who were friendly and supportive, or the clientele who were for the most part nice enough to let us into their homes for a cup of tea. It just wasn’t my cup of tea, pardon the pun.

Health visiting, for those not in the know, is a form of community nursing that focuses on babies, specifically children aged 0-5 and their parents. This involves prenatal support, achievement of developmental milestones and any social issues the family may be facing  among others. Essentially a health visitor is there to ensure a baby becomes a child without a hitch. So what’s the issue? Idk man, nothing?

Look, it’s perfectly fine to not be into something, it makes life easier when you make decisions in the future. “I no longer want to work in a ward, what are my options?” future me will ask, before saying “well, I wasn’t too keen on health visiting…”

A part of it is my own awkwardness. I’m not big on going into people’s homes and telling them what to do, although I recognise how often people badly need to be told. For example, we had to sit a mother of seven down and tell her to reconsider not have more children for financial and health reasons, something which I gather would be obvious to most people. But then my second issue pops up. People just… don’t… listen. Even when it involves another life, even when that life is their own child, they won’t listen to you. And why should they? You’re only a professional trained in that specific aspect of healthcare. What do you know? This isn’t specific to health visiting, mind you. I just found it especially frustrating. I wanted to shake some of these people and go “GROW UP FOR THE SAKE OF YOUR OFFSPRING”. Shout out to health visitors for resisting that urge. But then I guess sitting on someone’s couch in their own home does that to you. For the record, that mother of seven, despite having a very graphic description of how the body tears during birth, insisted she wanted 10. More power to you lady. I’ll be here with an ice pack on my crotch in sympathy.

I also found it difficult to stay interested. It involved a lot of social aspects, which was fascinating in the sense that I learnt about the support available for women with postpartum depression, single dads, recovering addicts, etc. But my interests are closer aligned to the medical aspects of care. For example if I see a baby with jaundice, I’m interested in why they’ve got jaundice, what the options for treatment are, and how the jaundice will affect the baby’s health. But it takes a health visitor to pinpoint whether the mother needs support and if the support is available in the community – is it a matter of teaching mum how to feed her baby? Is she unable to breastfeed and if so, why? Is she suffering from postpartum? Can Dad assist in any way? Both positions are really important, I just gravitate towards the hospital stuff a bit more.

I’m probably just sadistic and like poking people with needles tbh

Anyway, if an aspiring nurse is reading this, don’t be put off by my opinion! We need health visitors (especially young ones – the average age of a health visitor is 30-something, I was told!). The hours are super (9-5, aw yiss), you’ll have loads of autonomy in how you visit service users, and most of all you won’t deal with poo-… err I mean you’ll be helping families start their children’s lives properly!
Just don’t ask me to be one, mmkay?  

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