30th November 2022
We are delighted to share a Voices Blog by Georgina Mayes, Quality and Policy Lead at iHV, sharing her recent experience of making a new film about the breadth of the vital health visiting work in supporting babies, children and families.
We often get asked, “What’s it like to be a health visitor? What do health visitors do?”. As health visitors often work alone, or in small teams in families’ homes, their work is often hidden and it’s easy to overlook how important it is.
To shine a spotlight on the vital role of the health visitor, the iHV started to make plans in the summer to create a series of short films to showcase ‘a day in the life of a health visitor’ and provide glimpses into the diverse breadth of the work that they do supporting thousands and thousands of families with babies and young children across the UK, every week.
It’s no easy task to explain the role of the health visitor because it is so unique. Most people know what a midwife, nurse or a doctor does, and it is also easier to show the practical skills of these professions on camera – for example, dressing a wound, administering life-saving treatment in an intensive care unit, or supporting parents through childbirth, to name a few. But how do you demonstrate the specialist skills of a health visitor? It’s actually more difficult than it sounds.
Even an hour-long documentary would not be enough time to capture the way that health visitors work with families through the unexpected twists and turns of early parenthood, and cover the full breadth of their role which spans: ‘health creation’ for adults, children and communities; physical health and mental health; child development; social needs; and safeguarding (see our infographic ‘Who are health visitors and what do they do?’ for details). So, achieving this in a matter of minutes is near impossible! We therefore set out to capture just a small fraction of ‘real life’ for families across the UK, with parents telling their own stories about health visiting. With so many negative stories of healthcare hitting the headlines every week, we wanted to ‘celebrate the good’ with a snapshot of the health visitor’s specialist skills and the difference they make to babies, children, and families each and every day.
Coproduction with parents, health visitors, researchers, academics, and NHS partners was at the core of our film making. Their involvement (from the early scoping stages, deciding what our ‘must have’ key messages should be, right through to producing the final edits) was essential in this production.
We also wanted to showcase health visiting from across all four nations of the UK. We travelled by plane, train, and car … as well as by Metro and Tube. Covering a whopping 2,400 miles, we were able to capture the heartfelt stories from parents about how their health visitor made a difference to their family’s lives. We completed 25 interviews with health visitors, families, and other community professionals including a GP and a traveller-site warden who was also ‘Granny’ to many wonderful children.
They told us that ‘parenting is hard’ and nothing completely prepares you for it. Hearing parents tell their stories, when faced with adversity and how their health visitor supported them, was so emotional. We shared tears of happiness along the way, especially when health visitors heard their families say ‘thank you’, whilst explaining how they had made such a difference to their lives.
What really struck me was their health visitor’s humble response: ‘I was just doing my job; I had no idea that, what I did, meant so much to them’. Parents told us that they meet so many health professionals along the way and that they often forget their names – but, for these families, they said that they will never forget the name of the health visitor who was there when they needed them most and made such a lasting impact. How amazing to have a job where you will always be remembered and forever leave a lasting imprint on the lives of so many…It was so incredibly moving to watch, and I am still bursting with pride for our health visiting profession.
It has been a privilege and joy to lead the iHV film project and work with such delightful and inspiring health visitors and their families across the UK. I hope that every health visitor who watches our films will burst with pride too. These films may only provide a tiny snapshot of the vital role that health visitors play in supporting families, but they are absolutely representative of the brilliant work that health visitors do every day across the UK.
It’s time to celebrate our wonderful, unique and specialist health visiting profession! And what better way to do this, than by telling our story through the powerful medium of film.
Keep your eyes peeled for the official launch of our films. These will be launched at the iHV 10th anniversary celebration on 8 December, and will be available on our website from 9 December 2022.
In the meantime, here is a short trailer to one of our films – ‘Health visiting in your community’:
This new film will be launched at the iHV 10th anniversary celebration on 8 December, and will be available on our website from 9 December 2022 for you all to share.
We would like to express a huge heartfelt thank you all the parents and health visitors who shared their experiences so generously.
I would also like to say a special thank you to Andy Jones from Copia Productions and Communications Ltd for his guidance, expertise and enduring patience and support throughout this process, and a big thank you to Andy Goode who was our cameraman in Wales.
With special thanks to the organisations who supported us with our film making:
- NHS Borders
- Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust
- Homerton Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust
- Cardiff and Vale University Health Board
- Dechrau’n Deg Flying Start
- Western Health and Social Care Trust
- Birmingham Forward Steps
- Birmingham Community Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust
- Spurgeons Children’s Charity
- St Pauls Community Development Trust
- The Springfield Project.
And a huge thank you to our generous funders:
- The Sylvia Adams Charitable Trust
Georgina Mayes, Quality and Policy Lead, Institute of Health Visiting