Two things have prompted me to think about this question recently. One is an article that appeared in our professional journal, Community Practitioner, called “Does mother know best?” which you can read here: http://www.readperiodicals.com/201503/3617922681.html asserting that there is a mismatch between parents’ expectations of their health visitors and what health visitors are trying to provide. The second was a post on a Becoming Minimalist, a blog I love to read, entitled “If you wouldn’t do it for free, don’t do it for money” http://www.becomingminimalist.com/for-work/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+becomingminimalistcom+%28becomingminimalist.com%2 I shall look at these one at a time.
The writer of the first article, Helen Calvert, claims that “health visitors want us to be happy” and that this is influencing our advice to parents in unhelpful ways. Now, while I certainly don’t set out to make my clients unhappy, I had not considered it my professional responsibility to make them happy either. First and foremost, as a health visitor I believe my role is to promote and protect the health and welfare of babies, children and their families. There are times when I know full well that what I am going to say is not going to make parents happy. It never gets any easier to look a parent in the eyes and say “I am referring you to Social Services”, for example, but there are times when doing just that is my professional responsibility and I accept that as part of my job. I just don’t expect the parents to be pleased about it!
“We expect you to give us up-to-date, evidence-based, accurate information on the health aspects of parenting, and this includes infant feeding, co-sleeping, introducing solid food, postnatal depression, toddler behaviour, weight gain and development”
No arguments here: as a health visitor it is my job to provide parents with information to support them in making their own informed decisions about their child(ren)’s health. It is not my job to make those decisions for them. Often I may come across parents who make decisions which differ from my own, or I might not personally consider to be the best way to parent, but, as long as those decisions do not constitute a risk of harm to the child, it is not my job to intervene, it my job to support the parents. Of course, if there is a safeguarding risk, that changes everything.
The second article also made me think: why exactly am I doing this job? I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’d do it for free – I’ve got bills to pay, Beloved Husband is out of work, and I’ve not made as much progress on my minimalist journey as Joshua Becker has on his. However, I certainly don’t do it for the money. By nursing standards, health visitors don’t do too badly, but none of us are going to get rich doing it either. I think I’m doing it because I really believe that Every Child Matters, http://www.everychildmatters.co.uk no conditions, no exceptions, no excuses. And I want to play a part in making that a reality in the society I live in. I am very Serious about that.
On a good day I also enjoy it!