Am sure there is a clever analogy/political statement that could be made between the lack of posts on this blog and the plummet in moral (echoed by the drop in HV numbers) of the last 12 months.
I revalidated last month – 18 years since I first registered as an RN(child) and have realised how that time and experience has broadened my shoulders, built my resilience and enabled me to adapt in my transition from student to independent health visitor.I’m not alone in finding the job not quite what I signed up for, and feeling like any element of seeking health needs and building communities has been replaced by hitting targets and keeping commissioners happy while they congratulate our teams by slashing budgets further often with a side order of cutting or downgrading roles.
My fab friend Su highlighted The issues she faces in Staffordshire, but it feels one of the biggest hurdles we face is getting those with the loudest voices to help us, and so much of it seems to come down to what feels like an echo chamber of past negative experiences and lack of knowledge of what we actually do.
I widely shared a blogpost yesterday by JentheM which wonderfully breaks down for new parents what expectations to have/how to handle those first few bewildered days following delivery. It signposted to fantastic sleep and breastfeeding advice and left me feeling like parents who had support from JentheM and myself would feel they had consistency and could even suspect some collaboration between our services. So much I agreed with, I didn’t check every link, and didn’t hit the link to Milli Hill’s article. The thrust of the article about how difficult the first few weeks are as a parent are, how finding what works and treading that line between your instincts and what you see the societial norms/expections are. Unfortunately, wrapped up within it is a fair bit of health visitor bashing (I am never going to compete with the Daily Telegraph’s readership!).
Milli uses her experiences of three years earlier (2013 as the article its self is a year old) around safe sleeping and being advised not to co-sleep to suggest that all health visitors are still giving that advice, and even suggesting families lie about sleeping arrangements (thus preventing honest, open discussion and building distrust in the HV service) while with no sense of irony, quoting the NICE guidelines and evidence base we use and base our advice on – blind to the idea that as a profession we might have seen this too and adapted the way we approach the subject of safe sleep. Even having engaged on twitter with Milli, the belief still seems to be that I’m part of a small select group of health visitors who give correct advice.
It is so frustrating, as especially in the current arena of ongoing cuts and threats to services, those with the level of influence of Milli should be on our side – being aware that most health visitors are better informed than those she encountered and that she should be highlighting this and how it should be something all parents should expect rather than to be dismissive of the whole profession.
So what to do? It’s been much said before, but we need to be loud and proud of what we’re doing – this whole blog started to both promote and reflect on health visiting and particularly on twitter I strive to raise awareness both professionally of best practice and among the public of what to do. Locally I’m trying my best to make a difference too, I’ve worked with colleagues to try new ways of working in clinics improving staff and family satisfaction, joined a shared governance council to help work on improving standards, and I’ve registered our team generic email to Bulletins from Public Health England to help keep us up to date.
I’m also going with fellow CPHVA members to the House of Commons on Wednesday, originally to lobby about health visiting and schools nursing, but with there now being a general election looming, now giving them an Election checklist with ringfencing of our budgets.
So…what can you do? Whether fellow HV, parent or other stakeholder in public health issues, please #loveyourhealthvisitor and be loud and proud of it – I’m Here on twitter 👍🏻