Monday, 25 April 2016

Don't judge me...I'm a health visitor

Sometimes I feel like I'm living a lie.  I'm like Clark Kent in Superman, well kind of. By day I'm a mum to two girls on a career break from the NHS, but my secret?  I'm a trained health visitor. <Cue audible gasp>. As jobs go, in my role as a mum and being around alot of other mums, the health visitor is not a person who is particularly well liked.  From mums feeling forced to breastfed, mums feeling forced to bottle feed, mums being told not to wean just yet, and comments that 'health visitors are all the same', it doesn't exactly make me want to shout it from the rooftops what my profession really is. 

Before I became a health visitor, I trained as a paediatric nurse (you have to be a nurse before you can then train to become a health visitor), and after several years on a busy children's medical ward I left because I wanted a new challenge (that and the night shifts were killing me). I wanted to spend more time with the families I met only briefly on the ward.  I wanted to educate and health promote and contribute to healthier communities.  I wanted to make a difference in the most critical time of a child's life. 

In any given job I think there are good professionals and not-so-good ones, and health visiting is no different.  Unfortunately, I think its the bad ones people are always keen to talk about.  I have heard some absolutely awful advice given to mums which has made me think they'd have been better off Googling.  That or asking the woman in the local post office.  And there's no excuse for that. 

Being a parent is hard enough without feeling judged or given contradictory advice.  And just for the record, I couldn't give a monkeys how you feed your baby. The main thing? You and baby are happy.  Happy parents mean a happy baby. I will by all means give advice if parents ask and support if they need it.  

It's sad, because in my day to day life I never hear about the amazing work that I know is done by health visitors.  That they help women living with domestic abuse and in refuges, mums with post natal depression, refugees or traveller communities.

I'm not writing this to say health visitors are perfect. Far from it. But as soon as I reveal I'm a health visitor, I feel judged.  And it's so sad, because it's a role that has the capability to make real change and support families, should they need it at such a special and unique time in their lives.   

I do feel embarrassed when I hear health visitor horror stories and that's not why I came into the profession.  I've now been out of practice for four years now on a career break, but of the things I hear, of targets and service cuts, it makes me wonder the future of the health visitor. How we access information, through blogs, You Tube, Google, all must factor into how information is given and accessed by families.  Families needs have changed.  The role has to evolve and change in response. 
The twin-set and pearls image may have gone, but there's still work to be done. And me? I still have another 2 years as part of my career break from the NHS and being away has made me think seriously about my career. Right now, I'm not quite ready to take off my Clark Kent spectacles. 

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Disclaimer: All views are my own and are in no way affiliated with my employer.  This is my personal experience and view of health visiting.   

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