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Meet Our New Health Visitor Champion

Meet Our New Health Visitor Champion

A health visitor based at Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust, has been appointed a research Champion for Yorkshire and Humber.

Louise Wolstenholme is to serve as a Health Visitor Research Champion.

Here, Louise answered what attracted her to new role, what she will be doing and why research is important to the NHS.

Q: What attracted you to your new role?

Louise: For the past few years I have been increasingly active in research and have been looking at ways to raise the profile of research within health visiting. This new Institute of Health Visiting (iHV) role supported by the NIHR was a perfect marrying of these two areas for me and so I had no hesitation in applying for the role.

Q: Tell us about the application process for your new role.

Louise: I found the process quite straightforward as I have senior managers who are very supportive of building research capacity in the 0-19 service. They recognised the valuable contribution that this role could bring and as the appointed research lead within the organisation, that I was in a position to deliver within it.  

Q: What will you be doing in your new role and when did it start?

Louise: I met the other iHV Research Champions from other regions in November. There is much emphasis being placed on supporting one another nationally. I am meeting the Midwifery Champions and key people from the Clinical Research Network this month which will give me some ideas of next steps. Initially I want to build on our 0-19 Research Interest Group and I am keen to get to know more about studies that we could start to contribute to in Sheffield. 

Q: Could you tell us a bit about your experience in your field to date?

Louise: I qualified as a health visitor in 1993 and have worked in Sheffield for 18 years. I undertake one clinical day a week visiting families and the rest of the time I split between research activities and working as a Practice Teacher. I work in a very ethnically diverse, vibrant, low socio-economic part of Sheffield with a team of fantastic health visitors and nursery nurses. I spend most of my time visiting and championing the health needs of Roma Slovak families and their children.

Q: What experience do you have of working with NIHR?

Louise: My first actual involvement with the NIHR was when I undertook a post-Masters NIHR internship in 2016-17. The internship gave me 30 funded days to become more research active, under the supervision of a suitable mentor. There were two main achievements during that time.  The first was the establishment of the Sheffield 0-19 Research Interest Group for Health Visitors and School Nurses in November 2016. The second was that I started to work towards a NIHR PhD fellowship. I was working on this when it was superseded by Sheffield Children’s Hospital offering a PhD scholarship. I am currently 15 months into my PhD looking to ‘Explore Roma Slovak Mothers dietary practice in relation to their young children’. 

In the past two years I have also been the named PI locally for two NIHR portfolio studies and so this has started to raise my awareness of the relevance of such studies to organisations and what being ‘on the portfolio’ means.

Q: Why do you think it is important for the NHS to carry out research?

Louise: Research results in better care for patients and clients. Having started my nursing career at the University of Liverpool in the 1990s, the emphasis on research and evidence-based practice was clear from the outset and has always had an impact on my practice from then until the current day. There is however a need to strengthen the health visitor voice within research.

Q: How can non-research NHS staff be best attracted to research roles?

Louise: Research-interested staff can be in a great position to nurture a research interest in others. As a collective the Research Interest Group has started to develop a research culture within the 0-19 service, we understand more about we can get involved in research and the benefits of doing. We currently have five staff who have either completed, currently undertaking or applying for the Health Education England/NIHR pre-Masters internships.

Q: Is there anything else we should know about you?

Louise: There is a need to strengthen the health visitor voice in research and so with the support of the NIHR there is the potential for this to happen locally and regionally. To develop whole service research events will help to inform staff about the role of the NIHR, de-mystify research and hence normalise research as part of our routine practice.