Each year in September, the Nursing in the Community Faculty celebrate Nursing in the Community Week to highlight the valuable and sometimes hidden ways nurses contribute to the community. As part of the 2022 celebrations, three community nurses have shared what a typical day in their life is as part of NurseClick’s A Day in the Life series.
Today is Louise Wightman MACN, who is sharing with us what a day is like working as a Child and Family Health Nurse.
What is a child and family health nurse?
Child and Family Health Nurses provide clinical services and guidance relating to the growth and development of children aged between zero and five years. We examine their growth, feeding, development, hearing and vision. We also support parents in their parenthood journey by covering a range of areas relating to parental mental health and the parent/ infant-child relationship.
Our job is to work out what is happening with their child so we can identify what is working well, what is not yet working for them and be part of that early intervention process to support parents to support their infant /child. The universal services offer a home visit in the first one to four weeks of life and clinic visits for all child health checks from zero to five years.
A secondary level service like the Family Care Cottage requires a referral from a Child and Family Health Nurse, General Practitioner or Family Worker. The service provides short- to medium-term support to families with children zero to three years experiencing issues with complex feeding, infant sleep and settling, child behaviour, adjustment to parenting and parent/ infant-child relationships.
Referrals are reviewed at an intake meeting and then assigned to either a Child and Family Health Nurse or Social Worker depending on the issues identified on the referral.
For each case I start by contacting the parent to explore what is happening for them and their infant/child to gain some background history. We would negotiate whether a home visit or coming into the centre is more suitable for their situation.
A visit will usually be one to two hours, and we explore both infant/child and parent health and wellbeing. I work in partnership with parents to facilitate their exploration and understanding of the issues they are experiencing with their infant/child. Together we set some goals of what they would like to change and decide on steps to achieve these goals.
An example could be supporting a parent to settle their infant in their cot to sleep rather than hold the infant. We spend time exploring what happens with sleep and settling at the moment and what might be getting in the way of making changes for both infant and parent.
We talk about the cues that an infant gives their parent when they are tired and how a parent might respond to those cues to support the settling process. Hopefully, if the timing is right, we can spend time coaching parents through the settling process with their infant.
Being with a parent when their infant is very loud is very important to support the parent to be with their infant at this emotionally fraught time. The session also includes listening to the parent talk about their emotional health and wellbeing and exploring how their needs are met.
Every encounter with infants /children and their families is different. Workdays may consist of phone follow-ups with families to review their progress, feedback to referrers on client’s progress or two to three home visits working with families to support them reaching their goals.
It is an enjoyable place to work because we get to make an impact in the lives of the family very early in the life of the infant/child. It is very rewarding to provide guidance and support to families to help with parenting and navigate the challenges when families are disconnected from support, and helping people at one of the most vulnerable points of their life.
Louise Wightman MACN (CNS Child and Family Health)
Louise Wightman MACN is a RN, RM and Child and Family Health Nurse with a Bachelor of Nursing, Master of Learning Management, IBCLC, Grad Cert Child and Family Health. Louise currently works as a Clinical Nurse Specialist, Child and Family Health in a regional health service in NSW. Louise is the Chair of Maternal, Child and Family Health Nurses Australia.
Louise has a keen interest in research related to parenting, health and wellbeing of families, education, leadership and Child and Family Health Nurse practice. Louise is currently enrolled in a PhD at Flinders University, SA.