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iHV Community of Practice : A brilliant addition to the health visiting toolkit

9th December 2013

I’m a health visitor living and working in central Birmingham and I am approaching the end of my first year in practice. At the end of my HV training in February, I made a telephone call to the Institute of Health Visiting which led to a conversation with Cheryll Adams. This resulted in my colleagues and I being introduced to Professor Sally Kendall and Faith Ikioda and the start of our involvement in contributing to the institutes – Community of Practice.

A Community of Practice – is a group of professionals sharing a craft or profession. A better definition for us would be a group of professionals engaging in a process of collective learning. – bonding by exposure to common problems and by a sharing passion for what they do.

The iHV e-Community of Practice is on-line and accessible via the iHV home page for Associate members, it’s our Evidence hub: an exciting chance to work with other health visitors sharing evidence, empirical knowledge, and good practice points.  Although – the Community of Practice is in its infancy, I have already had many opportunities to use it in my practice.

During a primary visit a mother was enquiring over a recurrent rash her daughter had, that was not evident at the time. Her question was, did I think that it was a heat rash or could it be an allergy or eczema? I had been looking through the CoP on my iPad in much the same way you would look through a journal or book a few days earlier and I remembered a link I had seen to some photos of rash in childhood on an NHS website.  I had my tablet-computer and so suggested we looked together to see if she recognised the rash.

It worked really well as she was not only able to recognise the heat rash but read what had caused it and how to prevent it. It felt like real partnership with the mother and it was empowering in giving the NHS website as a resource for the future.

I have also used the evidence hub as a resource for our student health visitors as, it is so time consuming looking through all the information we have on the shelves when there no classification to aid your search.

By comparison, on the evidence hub, we have had access to unbiased information on formula milk and more recently the topic of physiological and pathological jaundice – these links are all put there by other health visitors to help their colleagues with practice. We all know the information is out there on the WWW but the ease of using the hub meant I didn’t have to fight my way through pages of biased or sponsored formula information, or pages of alarmist writing on neonatal jaundice – I was directed straight to a trusted link.

There are so many of us working to do the very best we can for our families with our own special interests and experiences. However we spend time, often our own, looking for quality research to inform our practice. However, we are the experts and we just need to share our knowledge and resources.  It is now the first place I look for the many things I still need to know about and advise on.

When I’m in the office however I confess to still turning my head and ask my question of the health visitors with their 80 years of experience between them.

This is something of a luxury I know that I will not have in the same way in the future.  As we move towards agile working I might not see my colleagues on a daily basis. So, I will be unable to ask the questions and bounce my thoughts without tracking them down by phone. I now envisage the resources of the CoP used from, most likely from my car,  as my starting point. 

Even though I am still a novice, I have been able to contribute to, as well as use, the CoP sharing evidence, experience and good practice points on Female Genital Mutilation.

It seems to me like there is nothing more exciting than a baby scare story in the media. They start worrying the Mums at the break of dawn with breakfast telly!  Then there is the radio and the papers – by the time the office opens there are scores of worried Mums with questions about findings we might not have even heard of let alone know how valid the research might be.  Then, health visitors all over the country have to find out about the news item and a source for that research – in order to try and make a educated decision on how biased or valid the findings are, all before trying to reassure their families.

I again envisage the CoP to be the first place I will look in the future – and whether I read the information or put a link there myself for others, it will save us time in keeping right up to date. I believe the CoP to be an essential tool for my future CPD and practice and maybe even sanity in this agile working future.

I believe the evidence hub could indeed easily be our own gold standard resource – the envy and respect of other professions.

Wendy Taman is a Health Visitor in Birmingham. This was her presentation at the iHV First year celebration event held on 4 December 2013.

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