Personal and professional influences on health visitors’ family focused practice for maternal mental illness: a cross sectional study

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Abstract

Background: While it is recognised that health visitors play a key role in supporting families when mothers have mental illness, there is limited understanding of health visitor’s family focused practice (FFP) in this context and its relationships with factors, such as, workload, training, skill and knowledge, and personal and professional experience. This paper examined the effect of health visitors’ interaction with the family, and personal and professional experience on their family focused practice.
Methods: A cross sectional questionnaire (Family Focused Mental Health Practice Questionnaire) was distributed to 488 health visitors, with 230 choosing to take part. Independent t-tests and one-way analysis of variance were used to compare family focused practice scores.
Results: Results found that health visitors who had face to face contact with partners and children (t(221) = 2.61, p = .01), and those that directly supported the partner (t(221) = 2.61, p = 0.01) had a significantly higher mean score, than those that did not. However, frequency of visits (daily, weekly, monthly or yearly) had no effect on family focused practice scores. Training also had a significant effect on family focused practice scores (F(2,221) = 4.841, p = 0.029). Analysis of variance revealed that personal experience of mental illness had a significant effect on scores (M = 97.58, p = 0.009), however variables such as, age, parental status, time since registration, and being in a specialist position had no effect.
Conclusions: In order for family focused practice to be effective, the quality, and content of visits and contact with family should be addressed, as opposed to a focus on the quantity of visits. However, in order for this to occur health visitors need to have appropriate support in their own right, with manageable caseloads and resources.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBMC Health Services Research
Publication statusAccepted - 14 Jan 2022

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