Health visitors help families to maintain the health of young children. This often involves home visits. They may also work with deprived groups, such as the homeless. Key responsibilities include:
- providing health advice and health education programmes
- undertaking developmental assessments of babies and children
- helping people come to terms with issues such as postnatal depression
- establishing and addressing key health needs
- referral to and liaison with other relevant organisations
- assessing parenting skills and children's home situations, and offering parents any further support that may be needed
- working with other professionals such as social workers, GPs and school nurses
Health visitors are typically employed by the NHS or by community interest groups. They may be based in GP surgeries or community clinics.
Vacancies are advertised on the NHS website, in newspapers and in publications such as Nursing Times, both online and in print.
It is only possible to become a health visitor after you have first qualified and registered as a nurse or midwife. You can then apply to undertake an approved programme in specialist community public health nursing – health visiting (SCPHN – HV). You do not need to have practised as a nurse or midwife for a particular length of time before starting health visitor training.
Qualification as a nurse or midwife is achieved via a nursing degree course, lasting three or four years. Those who have already completed an undergraduate degree in subjects such as life, health, biological or social sciences can qualify via a shortened two-year nursing course. Nurse First, a pilot two-year fast-track programme for graduates who want to enter nursing, has recently been launched by NHS England, and combines hands-on experience and training with an educational course. The scheme's initial focus is training mental health and learning disability nurses.
Resourcefulness and effective verbal communication and listening skills are essential. It is important to possess a mature, confident and caring manner. All candidates must be of good health and fitness. There are criminal record restrictions.