What is a health visitor?
A health visitor is a registered nurse or midwife who specialises in working with families with a child aged 0 to 5 to identify health needs and improve health and wellbeing. They provide a professional public health service to individuals, families and communities to improve health and reduce health inequalities. As a health visitor, you’ll work with parents who have new babies, offering support and advice until the age of 5 years.
Health visitors visit parents through a minimum of 5 home visits from pregnancy through to 2 years. These are typically home visits but you may also be invited to join groups or clinics run by the team.
What does a health visitor do?
Health visitors use their expertise to identify needs and offer support for families as early as possible. They can work with at-risk or deprived groups such as addicts, the homeless or travellers.
Day to day role varies but will typically involve:
- Providing support to parents during their transition to parenthood and the weeks leading up to birth
- Offering advice during breastfeeding, infant feeding and healthy eating for children
- Monitoring and assessing the child’s growth and development, including a review to be ready for school
- Providing speech, language and communication support
- Supporting mental health for both the parents and infant
- Prevent childhood obesity by supporting healthy weight and healthy nutrition conversations.
- Keeping accurate records and writing reports
What are the key skills required to become a health visitor?
To become a health visitor you must have some necessary qualities as you’ll need to be able to cope with potentially challenging situations:
- Excellent communication skills to work with children and parents from different backgrounds
- Demonstrate an interest in children and public health
- Have a caring attitude and be sensitive to situations
- Having confidence, patience and tolerance
- Excellent active listening skills
- Good problem-solving skills
- The ability to follow policies and procedures
What qualifications do you need to become a health visitor?
Individuals must also be registered with NMC as a nurse or midwife to be accepted onto the SCPHN – HV course.
You’ll then need to undertake a one-year full-time or 2-year part-time programme to qualify as a specialist health visitor. The Specialist community public health nursing- Health visiting course (SCPHN_HV) are degree-level courses so you can study at either undergraduate or postgraduate levels.
If you’re a registered nurse or midwife then it’s also possible to apply for a health visitor apprenticeship. This route to the profession allows you to learn on the job. It typically takes 18 months to complete and you will spend half the time studying and the other half working. Having work experience and volunteering is key to applying for these courses as they are incredibly competitive. To become a health visitor in the UK you’ll need to be a qualified nurse or midwife.
Steps to becoming a health visitor:
Step 1: Qualify as a nurse or midwife:
Before you can become a health visitor you must be a qualified nurse or midwife. During your nursing degree course, you’ll spend the first year completing the Common foundation programme (CFP). This covers a general introduction to nursing and develops your observational, communication and caring skills. Depending on the programme you choose it can take between 16 months to 4 years to gain your nursing qualifications.
Step 2: Gain SCPHN- HV qualifications:
Once you have completed your nursing or midwife qualification you’ll need to undertake the specialist community public health nursing- Health visiting course (SCPHN_HV). There are no requirements to have experience before starting this course unless you apply for a degree apprenticeship where you’ll learn on the job. Gaining work experience in a hospital environment as a midwife or nurse is useful to showcase your skills.
Step 3: Apply for jobs:
After you have qualified as a health visitor, you can apply for jobs. Health visitors are mainly employed by the NHS but you can also find employment with local authorities. You may be attached to general practice and undertake home visits as well as see patients within the surgery.
How much does a health visitor earn in the UK?
Most health visitors in the UK work within the NHS, the health visitor salary is determined by the NHS pay band. As a newly qualified health visitor, you’ll fall under band 6, with a salary between £32,000 and £39,000. As you gain more experience you can progress to a specialist or senior health visitor where you’ll move to band 7 increasing your salary to between £40,000 and £45,000.
How long does it take to become a health visitor?
To become a health visitor, you must first be a qualified nurse or midwife. Full-time nursing degrees take 3 – 4 years to complete. Once you’re qualified you need to undertake a 1-2 year programme to qualify as a specialist health visitor. Timing can vary depending on whether you choose to complete the programme part-time or full-time.