From the beginning to the end of life nurses are shaping the lives of individuals in their local communities. Today’s Nurses Where You Need Them NurseClick feature brings into focus the role Child and Family Health nurses play in supporting parents and their newborn children during the first few years of a child’s life. To highlight this, we speak to Louise Wightman MACN, a Clinical Nurse Specialist at a Family Care Cottage to gain insight into the services provided by Child and Family Health nurses and how they can be accessed, the skills these nurses require and why it is such an enjoyable area of nursing to work in!
More than infant health: The broad role of Child and Family Health nurses
“Child and Family Health nurses provide clinical services and advice relating to the growth and development of children aged between zero and five years,” Louise says.
“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 if anything isn’t going well and be part of that early intervention.”
However, as Louise points out, Child and Family Health nurses provide a diverse range of services to families which extend beyond infant and child health.
“We are key in the child protection role and are obligated mandatory reporters. We are also pivotal to domestic violence prevention and are often many of the first people a woman will tell if they are impacted by domestic violence.”
How to find a Child and Family Health Nurse
“All our services are free,” Louise says.
“The universal services that are offered are a home visit in the first one-four weeks of life and clinic visits for all child health checks 0-5 years. People can also ring up and make appointments without a referral for clinical services. In general, you will find that most services advertise and have information on their websites.”
Louise also highlighted the need to raise greater awareness in the general public that they have the option to visit a Child and Family Health nurse to provide them with much-needed support in their own community.
“People usually think they need to go to a general practice for these services,” she says.
“With a Child and Family Health nurse you get a 30 minute to one-hour consultation and it is a fantastic place to get specialised knowledge. Our services are a really good place to support parents.”
Highly qualified experts: The skill set of a Child and Family Health Nurse
All Child and Family Health nurses are registered nurses accredited with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (APRHA) and require, at a minimum, a graduate certificate postgraduate qualification,” Louise says.
In addition to formal qualifications, Child and Family Health nurses require a mixture of excellent clinical and communication skills to provide holistic health care to families in their communities.
“The skills required go beyond the health issues of the child and involve dealing with the entire family,” Louise says.
“Some of these skills involve:
- Immunisation and understanding the immunisation schedule
- Knowledge of child growth and development
- Expertise around breastfeeding and nutrition
- Expertise in the assessment of parental mental health and parent/ infant-child relationships
- Providing advice and support to families to help with parenting and navigate the challenges when families are disconnected from support.”
A rewarding nursing career
In closing, Louise had some advice for those considering working in Child and Family Health nursing.
“Child and Family Health nursing is a wellness model that allows you to impact the lives of the family very early in the life of that child,” she says.
“It is a really enjoyable place to work because we get to make a difference early rather than having to change processes later in life. There is longevity and you are helping people at the most vulnerable point of their life. It is very rewarding; you see clients with subsequent children and you get to know them really well.”
Nursing in the Community Week which runs from 14 – 20 September – raises awareness on how nurses can support you to stay safe at home, and their impact on the well-being of individuals and those in local communities.
Head to our website to register for a Nursing in the Community Week awareness pack and go in the draw to win a $500 Woolworths Gift Card.
We thank our official sponsor Regal Home Health for their support of Nursing in the Community Week.