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Education and role conflict in the health visitor profession, 1918-39

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Jane Brooks, Anne Marie Rafferty

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)142 - 150
Number of pages9
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2010

King's Authors


Health visiting was the public health profession in the UK, which arose during the Victorian period to support and supervise the mothers of the nation. The health visitor was expected to teach the new mothers hygiene, infant feeding and diet, help them in the home when necessary and then report back to the Medical Officer for Health. Her role therefore was multifaceted and required education and training from a number of differing bodies. She needed nursing skills to help with the practicalities of observation and home care, sanitary knowledge to ensure that the buildings were safe and training in law and epidemiology. In order to fulfil these professional requirements, by the middle of the twentieth century the health visitor was expected to be a nurse by background, be educated for health visiting in a university and understand community medicine. These differing and sometimes opposing requirements meant that the health visitor was often caught in-between conflicting ideologies. It is this idea of 'in-betweenness' from the work of the anthropologist Marilyn Strathern and its relation to the work and education of the health visitor that this article will focus.

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