Family Nurse Partnership
Experiences of a New Family Nurse
Guest Blog: Gail Chapple, Family Nurse, NHS Fife
Gail Chapple has kindly agreed to share her journey of becoming a new family nurse within the Family Nurse Partnership (FNP) in Scotland.
A family nurse’s role is to visit families in their homes and provide intensive tailored support to young first-time mothers aged 19 or under, and eligible 20–24-year-olds, from early pregnancy until the child reaches two.
There are around 3,000 families in Scotland receiving the Family Nurse Partnership at any one time. Over 10,000 families have benefited from this programme since 2010, and over 6,000 have graduated.
You can find out more information on FNP by watching this film: Family Nurse Partnership: 10-year analysis – YouTube
Tell us a bit about yourself! What do you like to do in your spare time?
I am married with 3 children and a 2-year-old Labrador which makes free time a luxury. I love meeting up with friends for coffee, cake and blether and then going to the gym in an attempt to work off the cake! I have also recently become one of those crazy wild water swimmers.
Why did you decide to apply to become a family nurse within FNP?
In 2012 I attended the launch of FNP in Fife. There was an information event for midwives and the presentation introduced me to the concept of the life changing programme. When I began working as a community midwife, I had my own caseload and had the opportunity to witness the work of family nurses and speak to patients who were enrolled with the FNP programme. They were so positive about the programme, and the supportive relationships they had with their nurses, that I knew that working with FNP was where I wanted to be.
What previous experience did you have prior to joining FNP?
I was a general nurse and then became a staff midwife before becoming a community midwife.
What training did you undertake to become a family nurse?
I started my FNP training just as the pandemic began. I attended the initial foundation training just before lockdown. The first module was a 5-day residential course which allowed you to submerge yourself in the whole ethos of FNP and its strength-based philosophy. It took 2 years to complete the training due to the pandemic; it would usually take 18 months. The remainder of the training was nearly all on Microsoft Teams. Training included learning about the Core Elements of FNP: Human Ecology; Attachment Theory; Self-Efficacy; Developing Therapeutic Relationships; Motivational Interviewing; the Maternal Role; Fetal, Infant and Adolescent Brain Development; Breastfeeding; Child Development; and Child Protection. This is not an exhaustive list, but I now realise why I was exhausted sometimes! I also had learning needs assessments and team-based consolidation to complete.
What does a typical day look like now that you have completed your training?
Diary planning is extremely important. You have a lot to pack into your week. I start in the office preparing for visits and making calls. It is a home visiting service, so we travel to our clients. Visits are usually in the client’s home but sometimes it might be a nursery visit or a walk. A visit is approximately 1 -1 ½ hours. You have an abundance of programme materials to facilitate discussions and identify the areas of the programme that your client wishes to work on. You use your motivational interviewing skills and agenda matching to ensure that you are meeting the client’s needs while staying true to the programme.
FNP prioritises supervision and every week you meet with your supervisor. There is also a weekly team meeting when nurses support and learn from each other. As the named person for the children on your caseload, your day also includes communicating with other professionals, attending wellbeing and child protection meetings, completing referrals, preparing reports and writing records.
What do you enjoy most about being a family nurse?
Building therapeutic relationships and seeing the pride in your clients as they become the best parents they can be.
What is the most surprising thing you have learnt being a family nurse?
The strength of the programme. It is amazing when a client has a question or concern that the programme has exactly the material you need to help explore the issue. We say’ Trust in the Programme’.
Can you tell us about a time you supported an FNP client?
I had a client that showed amazing strength and determination to improve her life and provide her baby with the best start she could. She had suffered significant trauma in her life and was dependent on alcohol and drugs. When I met her, she was 12 weeks pregnant, and she had already successfully stopped drinking and had reduced her use of drugs to cannabis only. However, she was heavily dependent on cannabis and was suffering from anxiety. She felt cannabis was helping her to cope.
Together we worked through a cannabis quiz about the effects of cannabis use in pregnancy and discussed how she saw herself as a Mum. My client decided that day she needed to stop her cannabis use. She accepted a referral to a mental health nurse and stopped the use of cannabis within 1 week. She has had difficulties coping at times and yet, she has never started using cannabis again, her mental health has greatly improved, and she is now a great mum to a happy healthy toddler.
What advice would you give to anyone else who is interested in becoming a family nurse?
It is a difficult job and also so rewarding. One of my colleagues said to me ‘It will be the hardest job that you will ever love!’ and that sums it up beautifully.
How would you describe FNP in three words?
Life-Changing, Challenging, and Rewarding