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Health visitors are specially trained nurses and midwives who provide care and support for families with additional social or healthcare needs. They work with pregnant women and their partners in the time leading up to childbirth and continue to do so after the child is born. It is their responsibility to ensure that new parents are equipped with the knowledge and resources needed to care for a child.
In the time leading up to a child’s birth, a health visitor will keep close contact with expecting parents. They may organise workshops where they teach soon-to-be mothers and fathers the various essential parenting skills and techniques, such as feeding and bathing newborns and creating a safe environment which will have a positive impact on the child’s development.
Many parents experience teething problems after the birth of a child and rely on the care of a health visitor to help them adjust. This is particularly important for vulnerable families, such as those in which one or more member suffers from a mental illness or parents who are combatting addiction.
Health visitors will pay frequent visits to families for up to four or five years after the birth of a child, making sure that the care the child is receiving is satisfactory in terms of parenting, education and healthcare.
They also need to ensure that there are no signs of abuse or neglect. In the event that a health visitor becomes concerned about the poor standard of care and attention a child is getting, they will implement plans to protect the child. They may be required to give evidence in court.
Health visitors not only work with children and families; they also help support vulnerable groups, including the elderly and the mentally ill. Work, therefore, may take place in a number of settings, such as hospices, mental health facilities, patients' homes and care homes.
They frequently carry out duties in multidisciplinary teams with midwives, nurses, social workers and other healthcare professionals.