Health visitor

Health visitors are registered nurses or midwives who have undertaken further study at Masters level to become registered health visitors.

They work in the community to provide a proactive and universal service to families with young children. They are healthcare specialists who contribute heavily to the well-being of children and families.

Health visitors aim to support and empower families to promote health and well-being by visiting them in their own home. Health visitors provide parents with advice so they can give their child the best possible start in life.

They work with NHSScotland principles and goals to tackle health inequalities and deprivation. They work to stop children and families becoming vulnerable or at-risk.

They are registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).


Starting your career

Choosing subjects at school

To get on a course to become a health visitor, you must become a registered nurse or midwife first. You need a good standard of education to get into a course to become a nurse or midwife. Useful subjects include:

  • Human Biology
  • Chemistry
  • English
  • Maths
  • Psychology

A Foundation Apprenticeship in Social Services Children and Young People, or Social Services and Healthcare, taken in S5 or S6, could give you valuable work experience.

Work placement

If you’re at school or thinking of changing career, doing a work placement could help you when applying to college, university or for a job in healthcare. You’ll learn new skills, improve your knowledge and discover what it’s like to work in the health service. Find out how to apply for work experience with the NHS.

College and university

Most universities accept a wide range of qualifications, giving you the option of applying directly from school or going to college first.

At college, you can do an HNC in Care and Administrative Practice, which could lead to an undergraduate pre-registration nursing degree.

Widening participation supports adult learners who want to go to university. If you’re an adult with few or no qualifications, you can get into higher education through the Scottish Widening Access Programme (SWAP). Many universities also provide access programmes to help you get the degree entry qualifications you need.

To become a health visitor, you must be registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) as a first level nurse or midwife. Afterwards, you must apply to an approved Masters-level health visitor training programme.

To gain entry to the approved courses, you should be educated to a degree level. However, some universities will take previous academic credit, or prior learning into account.

The following approved Scottish universities that offer postgraduate programmes in Specialist Community Public Health Nursing – Health Visiting are:

  • Glasgow Caledonian University
  • Queen Margaret University
  • Robert Gordon University
  • University of Stirling
  • University of West of Scotland

For more information on related further and higher education courses, search My World of Work. You should check specific entry requirements before applying.

The role

You will visit families in their own home and provide health advice and support to empower parents to care for their children. Your health visiting practise will be based on the universal health visiting pathway. These include:

  • promoting, supporting and safeguarding the well-being of children
  • person-centeredness
  • building strong relationships with families from early in their pregnancy journey
  • offering support during the early weeks of parenthood and planning future contacts with families
  • harnessing family strengths, while assessing and respectfully responding to their needs

Although your focus of health visiting will be on young children, you will have to build a solid bond with the whole family. You’ll have to engage with families to discover and build on their strengths. It will also be your responsibility to understand their concerns and health needs and deal with it in a safe and supportive manner.

What you’ll do

Your main tasks include:

  • assessing development in children
  • identifying vulnerability and risk factors
  • supporting parents and carers with physical and mental health challenges
  • promoting, supporting and safeguarding the well-being of children
  • offering emotional support regarding issues such as postnatal depression, domestic violence, loss, and grief
  • providing evidence-based advice to empower parents to give their children the best possible start in life
  • supporting national public health initiatives such as tackling child poverty, and obesity

Top skills

You’ll need these skills:

  • caring for people
  • communicating with people
  • critical thinking skills
  • listening
  • problem-solving
  • working in a team

Who you’ll work with

You could work with

  • community nursing staff
  • school nurses
  • social workers
  • allied health professionals

Working environment

You could work in:

  • GP surgeries
  • families’ homes
  • community and outreach clinics
  • schools

Useful information

To work as a health visitor in NHSScotland, you’ll need to:

Learning and development

When you begin your career as a health visitor, you will go through an induction provided by your recruiting NHSScotland board. This will familiarise you with the systems and services available. There will also be training available to develop your skills in areas such as:

  • child protection
  • advanced practice
  • teaching and supervision
  • management and leadership

Revalidation

Revalidation is a process which nurses need to follow to maintain their registration with the NMC every 3 years.

It is an ongoing process throughout your career as a nurse and aims to:

  • promote good practice
  • maintain and strengthen public confidence in the profession

Find out more about revalidation on the NMC website.

Career Progression

Using the skills gathered as a practising health visitor, you can progress in your career. You may decide to become a team leader or team manager. You would be responsible for managing and providing clinical supervision to teams of health visitors and other community staff. You’ll need relevant experience and a Masters, or equivalent qualification is usually required for this role.

Health visitors may also develop specialist areas of interest. They could work with families with specific health and social needs. You may have to undertake specialist planning and work with other agencies. You’ll also give training and clinical supervision to health visitors and students. Again, a Masters, or equivalent qualification, is required for this role.

You will also be able to move into leadership roles, Nurses can be supported into leadership roles through the NHS Leadership Academy. They also offer a programme for frontline nurses and midwives to develop their skills.