The work of health visitors and school nurses with children with psychological and behavioural problems

Philip Wilson, Judy Furnivall, Rosaline S. Barbour, Graham Connelly, Graham Bryce, Louise Phin, Anna Stallard

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    23 Citations (Scopus)


    Aim. This paper is a report of a study to describe the workload of health visitors and school nurses in relation to children and young people with psychological, emotional or behavioural problems, and to identify perceived challenges, obstacles and sources of satisfaction associated with this aspect of their work. Background. There is little published information on the work performed by non-specialist community nurses with children and young people who have psychological, emotional and behavioural problems. Method. We analysed data from a survey conducted in 2002 – 2003 of 1049 Scottish professionals working with children and young people. Data included quantitative responses and free-text describing the cases seen by respondents. Responses from a sub-sample of 71 health visitors and 100 school nurses were analysed using a combination of descriptive statistics and analysis of themes emerging from the text. Findings. Although community-based nurses saw a relatively small number of children with psychological, emotional or behavioural problems each week, dealing with these problems took up a disproportionate amount of time. The commonest types of problem were self-harm, externalizing behaviours and family difficulties. Few respondents had received specific training in child and adolescent mental health but most expressed a wish to receive such training. Conclusion. The work of health visitors and school nurses in caring for children with mental health problems is substantial and important. Development of their public health role should not be at the expense of this important contribution. There is a need for rigorous evaluation of nursing mental health interventions among children and young people.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)445-455
    Number of pages11
    JournalJournal of Advanced Nursing
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 2008


    • Mental health problems
    • Health visitors
    • School nursing
    • Children
    • Young people


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