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Case study for Tess who works as an Health Visitor

Tess Hickson

Job title: Health Visitor

Area of work: Central Exeter - Public Health Nursing, Health Visiting Team

Hello, my name is Tess Hickson. I am a Health Visitor in Central Exeter, Health Visiting Team.

When did you start at Devon County Council?

I started working at Devon County Council (DCC) 7 months ago, having relocated from Kent where I had been a Health Visitor for many years.

What made you choose to work for Devon County Council?

I didn’t really want to leave the NHS, having worked in it for 30 years so, I approached both the NHS and Devon County Council work options, as I live equal distance from both. But, I decided to go for DCC because of the response I received on my application, really. The managers I spoke to were really friendly and that swung my decision to go for DCC. I must admit that I have found the different processes and record systems challenging, but the managers and my team, in particular, were really supportive and I had a buddy who was excellent at the processes which was what I needed. And after a few challenging weeks, I have settled in and I’m very happy here now.

Can you give an overview of your role?

As a Health Visitor in Devon, we work in teams with Staff Nurses and Nursery Nurses, delivering the Healthy Child Programme to families with children under 5 years. We tend to work with the families who need extra support and we work with our social care and medical colleagues, as well as Action for Children and the Children Centre Staff, to support families when we identify that they have a health need. In order to do this, we initially complete a Family Health Needs Assessment and then we agree a plan with the family of whether we refer them to other agencies to meet that need, or we offer a piece of work such as extra home visits or clinical appointments, with the aim that all the children in our care reach their potential, as much as possible.

How did you come to be in this role?

I was previously an Adult Nurse. I worked in A&E at Guys Hospital in London, as well as, working in Cardiology for a while and then I completed the post grad diploma to become a Health Visitor.

What’s your favourite part of what you do?

I have always loved being a Health Visitor because, having worked in hospitals, you realise that the health trajectory of all of us is usually set in childhood, and health visiting gives me the opportunity to offer early intervention. So, that the chances of the children that we meet having healthy lifestyles, being identified early if support is needed, and having those needs met, increases the likelihood of them remaining healthy into adulthood.

How have you progressed through your role?

In the past, I have been a Practice Teacher having the privilege of seeing other Nurses become Health Visitors and, I have also done a Specialist Health Visitor role which offered extra intervention contacts to support families identified as needing this. Now, I’ve come to Devon, I’m being just a normal, regular Health Visitor.

What benefits do you enjoy?

I enjoy being able to go to a place of work. We have an office where the team is usually and so it is sociable and supportive. I don’t really like working from home but we can if we have online training or meetings, for example. Because I had closed my NHS pension, I can now contribute to the DCC one which is great. I was told when I joined that other benefits are less good for DCC compared to NHS but I haven’t really noticed this.

What else do you enjoy about your job?

So, I enjoy that every day is different, you can plan your diary, you can get in your car in all weathers and visit families who generally are happy to have the support and they most times really appreciate the service. Working in a skill mix team is really fun and all members bring such good skills that I am always learning new things but, the families have and will always be, the best bit of the job for me!

What do you enjoy about living and working in Devon?

I have never lived in Devon before, it is definitely wetter than Kent and colder! But I love the beaches and walks, I love walking the dogs on the moor, there is a good mix of festivals, community celebrations and it just feels much more community, people are friendlier, more relaxed. It’s a really nice place to be and I am really glad that I made the move.