A health visitor is a qualified nurse or midwife with post-registration experience who has undertaken further training and education in child health, health promotion, public health and education. Health visitors work as part of a primary healthcare team, assessing the health needs of individuals, families and the wider community. They aim to promote good health and prevent illness by offering practical help and advice.
The role involves working within a community setting, often visiting people in their own homes. It primarily involves supporting new parents and pre-school children. Working as a health visitor may also include tackling the impact of social inequality on health and working closely with at-risk or deprived groups. There may be variations in the role in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, which may include working with adults from the wider community.
The health visiting service is dynamic and health-focused and able to respond flexibly to a range of service and community needs. Health visiting is underpinned by four principles that guide and direct professional practice. These are the search for health needs, creating awareness of health needs, influencing policies affecting health and the facilitation of health-enhancing activities.
Typical work activities
Activities vary according to the nature of the individual role but may include:
- using specialist healthcare interventions to meet the health-related needs of individuals, families, groups and communities as well as assessing and evaluating their effectiveness;
- working as part of a primary care trust team, which may also include GPs, midwives, community nursery nurses, health visitors' assistants, healthcare assistants and community staff nurses;
- advising and informing new parents on issues such as feeding, sleeping, safety, physical and emotional development, weaning, immunisation and other aspects of childcare;
- leading and delivering the Healthy Child Programme
, providing support from early pregnancy to a child's early weeks and throughout their childhood - providing a gateway to other services as required;
- working in partnership with families to develop and agree tailored health plans addressing individual parenting and health needs;
- managing parent and baby clinics at surgeries, community and Sure Start Children's Centres and running specialist sessions on areas such as baby massage, exercise and child development;
- working collaboratively with children's centres, schools, preschools and action groups in the local community;
- providing emotional support regarding issues such as postnatal depression, bereavement, disability, family conflict and domestic violence;
- supporting government initiatives to tackle child poverty and social exclusion, such as Sure Start
- agreeing local health action plans as well as managing and leading interdisciplinary teams involved in their delivery;
- diagnosing minor conditions and prescribing low-level medication;
- supporting and training new health visitors and support staff;
- maintaining and updating client records;
- collecting, collating and analysing data to ensure that specific health targets are being met and creating health policies regarding the provision of healthcare;
- planning and setting up health promotion displays;
- generating and maintaining effective interactions with relevant external agencies, including other healthcare professionals, social services, local housing departments, the police, teachers and probation officers, and utilising appropriate referral procedures;
- maintaining the standards and requirements of professional and statutory regulatory bodies, adhering to relevant codes of conduct, understanding the legal and ethical responsibilities of professional practice and maintaining the principles and practice of client confidentiality.
Further information on the way health visitors work can be found at NHS Careers
. Information on careers for health visitors in other areas of the UK can be found at: