King's College London

Research portal

Making a difference for children and families. An appreciative inquiry of health visitor aspirations, values and beliefs and why they start and stay in post

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
JournalHealth & social care in the community
Published19 Nov 2015


King's Authors


The study aimed to develop an understanding of health visitor recruitment and retention by examining what existing staff and new recruits wanted from their job, their professional aspirations and what would encourage them to start and stay in employment. Following a period of steady decline in numbers, the health visitor workforce in England has recently been invested in and expanded to deliver universal child public health. To capitalise on this large investment, managers need an understanding of factors influencing workforce retention and continuing recruitment of health visitors. The study was designed using an interpretive approach and involved students (n = 17) and qualified health visitors (n = 22) from the north and south of England. Appreciative inquiry (AI) exercises were used as methods of data collection during 2012. During AI exercises students and health visitors wrote about 'a practice experience you have felt excited and motivated by and briefly describe the factors that contributed to this'. Participants were invited to discuss their written accounts of practice with a peer during an audio-recorded sharing session. Participants gave consent for written accounts and transcribed recordings to be used as study data, which was examined using framework analysis. In exploring personal meanings of health visiting, participants spoke about the common aspiration to make a difference to children and families. To achieve this, they expected their job to allow them to: connect with families; work with others; use their knowledge, skills and experience; use professional autonomy. The study offers new insights into health visitors' aspirations, showing consistency with conceptual explanations of optimal professional practice. Psychological contract theory illustrates connections between professional aspirations and work commitment. Managers can use these findings as part of workforce recruitment and retention strategies and for building on the health visitor commitment to making a difference to children and families.

Download statistics

No data available

View graph of relations

© 2020 King's College London | Strand | London WC2R 2LS | England | United Kingdom | Tel +44 (0)20 7836 5454