Responding to the support needs of frontline public health nurses who work with vulnerable families and children: A qualitative study.

Authors: Austin J, Holt S


Contemp Nurse. 2017 May 13;:1-19

BACKGROUND: This paper reports on a research study to inform the development of a specialist role designed to lead and support front line public health nurses (PHNs) working with vulnerable families and at risk children in Ireland. PHNs in Ireland provide a programme of intervention that promotes optimum health and wellbeing for all children in their early years under the governance of the Health Service Executive. This universal access places the PHN as a central participant in the safeguarding of young children, particularly those working in disadvantaged communities where frequent exposure to difficult situations is a common factor.
AIMS: The aims of this study were to identify best practice, investigate the position of a leading role and to explore the implications of such change.
METHODS: This study was conducted using a qualitative research design to collect informative data through focus group and semi-structured individual interview formats. The sample of ten participants was purposively selected from line management in public health nursing, social work and a non-governmental children's organisation who work in some of the most disadvantaged areas in Dublin.
RESULTS: Supported by empirical evidence, findings from the data indicate that assistant directors of public health nursing with significant experience in child protection and welfare are in a key position to inform decisions pertaining to the provision of services for children.
CONCLUSION: This study concluded that access to support and appropriate supervision are fundamental resource requirements for PHNs who work with vulnerable families and at risk children. The study further recommended that the introduction of a specialist- leading role to support these public health nurses was essential to sustaining best practice.



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