Maureen: child and family health nurse
Thinking about becoming a child and family health nurse? Maureen’s journey from London to Sydney via Switzerland gives some insight into what kind of skills are needed on the job.
“So, you’re a Child & Family Health Nurse, which hospital do you work at?” This is a common question I hear from not just the general public but other nurses too. There are mis-conceptions and lack of awareness around nursing in a Community environment which I have noticed since leaving the hospital system.
My nursing career started in 1973 when as an 18 year old I did my 3 year training at The Royal Free Hospital London England to become a State Registered Nurse. I was a Staff Nurse on a Cardiovascular Ward before moving to sunny Brighton by the sea to specialise in Paediatrics at The Royal Alexandra Hospital for Sick Children, where I gained the title Registered Sick Children Nurse. Returning to London I worked in Paediatrics and completed a short course in Psychiatric nursing (Epsom Surrey) which qualified me to sit the California (USA) State Board nursing exam. I passed, but as I didn’t drive at the time, I felt America was too hard to manage without a car so instead I went to Switzerland. I lived in Lausanne and worked at The Centre Hopitalier Universitaire Vaudois in The Premature Baby Unit, where I worked in French and imagine some of the little babies absorbed some English from me! I then worked in Paediatrics predominantly but when I needed a break would do adult general surgery which I found so easy in comparison!!!
The travel bug had taken hold and the next stop was The Royal Alexandra Hospital for Sick Children but this one was in Camperdown, Sydney Australia where I worked at Wade House 2 (general surgery).
I had met my Australian husband by then. We married in England and I worked again in London at The Devonshire Private Hospital where we specialised in renal transplantation and pioneered the lithotripter machine. Returning to Sydney I worked at Petersham Private Hospital again pioneering the lithotripter!
Following a short break to have my own children, I prepared to return to Nursing by attaining the Bachelor of Health Sciences Nursing, then a Diploma in Counseling and Small Group Work. A friend introduced me to Community Health and I started work as a Generalist Community Nurse, which was a huge role incorporating everything from the “cradle to the grave.” The autonomy of the role suited my experience but I was delighted to specialise only in Child and Family Health Nursing from 2006.
The role of a child and family health nurses is varied and interesting I see myself as a health service representative, assessor and referrer where necessary. Communication skills are valuable when home visiting in my ethnically diverse community, where I use a partnership approach to conduct the developmental check of the baby and psychosocial assessment with the mother. Through talking in a non judgmental, respectful and encouraging manner I explore the mother’s strengths, supports and resilience with particular awareness of the importance of the parent-infant emotional attachment for optimal developmental outcomes for the baby.
Working in clinics extends contact with families for maternal and child health assessments up to the child’s four year health check. Early interventions prevent long term problems and so our referrals e.g. eye clinic, tongue tie clinic, dental clinic, developmental clinics, paediatricians, sleep and settling services, counseling and mental health teams, are important to public health. A particularly enjoyable aspect of my job is facilitation of New Parent groups. Connecting and empowering new parents to develop their own parenting capacity and form social support network is very satisfying. My 44 year journey in nursing has led me to a role that I feel privileged to have found. It is pleasure to work with a team of child and family health nurses, who are as diverse as their clients in age and experience but share enthusiasm, commitment, skill and intelligence in a role which impacts and supports our community to help itself.