As I perused the 2023 shortlist for the Nursing Times Workforce Summit and Awards, I was pleased to see the nominees. However, I was particularly keen to spot a specific group of health professionals. Despite my thorough search, even using the “Ctrl + F” function, they were absent from the list. Shouldn’t all nursing professions be considered for the Nursing Times Workforce awards? I understand that shortlisting relies on nominations, but what if individuals in certain roles don’t receive emails about how to nominate someone in the nursing workforce?
The crucial role of health visitors
Which branch of nursing am I referring to, you ask? I am speaking of health visitors. Health visitors are nurses or midwives registered with the NMC (Nursing and Midwifery Council) who have undergone additional training in community public health nursing. This additional training certifies them as specialist community public health nurses. Health visitors spearhead the Healthy Child Programme for ages 0–5 and play a fundamental role in ensuring every child gets the best start in life.
You see, until early 2021, I was introduced as a daughter, sister, cousin, friend, aunty, colleague, single Black female in academia, associate dean, etc., and then, in June 2021, I made the best decision in my life and added “mother” through adoption.
As you can imagine, being a first-time mum comes with challenges. They often say, “There is no manual for motherhood.” Believe me, no number of books or word-of-mouth recommendations provided what I needed to help my daughter integrate into the UK, such as connecting with other adopters or discovering family fun days and activity centres. Enter the health visitors: trustworthy and dependable public nursing staff who supplied accurate, up-to-date, and timely information.
How did I hear about these information powerhouse public health nurses? A few weeks ago, I answered a phone call that I did not know I needed. It was from someone who introduced themselves as a Health Visitor and wanted to come and see me and my child as part of the Child Health Programme. OK, I said, and we booked an appointment for what turned out to be just what my daughter and I needed.
A call to recognise the unsung heroes
The first time I heard about health visiting was soon after my undergraduate when I was offered a scholarship to further my studies as a health visitor, but I chose the scholarship to study for an MSc in public health. I do not regret my decision, but I am thankful for those who accepted to become health visitors, and most thankful to the health visitors in the Royal Borough of Greenwich who have become my springboard of information for my daughter.
Empowering the next generation
Whether you are a nurse specialising in adult care, child care, midwifery, mental health, or learning disabilities, you can train to become a health visitor. This role involves working with families with children aged 0–5, identifying health needs, promoting healthy lifestyles, and preventing illness. I’d like to emphasise that health visitors provide crucial information that some parents might be unaware of. They guide those who don’t know whom to ask, where to seek assistance, or even which door to knock on. For these reasons, I advocate for Health Visitors to be nominated for the Nursing Times Award.
How can we include health visitors in the Nursing Times Workforce Summit and Awards?
I suggest that the Nursing Times Award organisers contact health visitors through their Boroughs and provide them with links that they can share with families that they support so that families can vote for their favourite Health Visiting Borough or NHS Trust Health Visitors. Otherwise, health visitors could become forgotten healthcare providers when it comes to Awards, even though they provide the most important, relevant, and up-to-date information for parents of children from 0–5years who were the nurses and midwives of the past and present and could become the nurses and midwives of the future. So, hopefully, we will see health visitors in the 2024 Shortlist for the Nursing Times Workforce Summit and Awards.
Dr Josephine NwaAmaka Bardi (RN) is the associate dean for Education and Student Experience at the School of Nursing and Midwifery, London South Bank University. Additionally, she founded the campaign to Raise Awareness of Mental Health in Higher Education (RAMHHE).