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Health visitors are nurses or midwives with an additional specialist public health qualification who work with families with children aged under five to promote good health and prevent illness.

It is only possible to train as a health visitor if you are already a registered nurse or midwife.

What does a health visitor do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

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

Typical employers of health visitors

Health visitors are typically employed by the NHS or by local authorities. They may be based in GP surgeries or community clinics. You may find work elsewhere, though – such as for charities or voluntary organisations.

Vacancies are advertised on the NHS and NHS Scotland recruitment websites, along with the Institute of Health Visiting website.

Qualifications and training required

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 degree (either undergraduate or postgraduate) in specialist community public health nursing – health visiting (SCPHN – HV), which should be approved by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). 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. For more on how to enter these careers, see the nurse and midwife job descriptions on TARGETjobs.

Key skills for health visitors

  • The ability to understand other people and gain their trust
  • Skills in organisation and prioritisation
  • Interpersonal skills; a friendly, patient and approachable manner
  • Emotional maturity

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