5 minutes with…
Sarah Booth, Paediatric Liaison Health Visitor and Care of Next Infant (CONI) Co-ordinator
How would you describe what you do?
The central purpose of the PLHV service is to safeguard the health and wellbeing of children who attend Barnsley Hospital. I do this through the process of two-way communication and support the integration of services across acute and primary care settings.
I am based at Barnsley Hospital covering the emergency department (ED), neo-natal unit and the children’s ward and work closely with frontline hospital staff as well as the Trust’s community health teams. I review all attendances at ED for any child or young person under 19 years of age and liaise with the relevant services about any areas of potential concern. Some of things I’m particularly looking out for are vulnerable children such as babies under 28 days old, any injuries to children under 1, any delay in parents or carers seeking treatment, any inconsistent histories, frequent attendances, children who are not known to statuary services and high risk taking behaviours in young people.
I have a unique overview of all children coming into acute services and can share this information with appropriate community teams, including health visitors, school nurses, general practitioners, CAMHS and social care. I get a good insight into prevalence of social issues such as bullying, self harm and alcohol and drug related incidents. I feel my background as a Health Visitor plays a vital in this role as I am able to apply all the unique skills of public health development, the search for health needs, influencing policy and draw heavily on my ‘hands-on’ safeguarding experience when working with colleagues in the acute setting and when linking up with community teams.
There’s definitely a detective nature to my role and I am always putting pieces of the jigsaw together to establish a chain of events and to ascertain a background to cases. It’s in my nature to try and recognise incidents before they happen and aim to prevent situations escalating through being proactive. A lot of what I do can be based on observational skills or gut feelings; more often than not if something doesn’t feel right it isn’t. I think my extensive experience as a Health Visitor and working with families where children are deemed to be at risk of significant harm enables me to put theory into practice.
As part of my role I also co-ordinate the CONI scheme supporting parents who have previously lost a child to SIDS and those professionals involved. This is free to families and offers the extra support and reassurance for families who have sadly been through what is an incredibly traumatic and life changing event. As part of the CONI programme parents should receive more tailored support from their GP, health visitor, midwife and hospital Drs where appropriate. I also offer training in resuscitation techniques to the parents and provide them with respiration monitors, which pick up movements as the baby breathes and will ring an alarm if movements stop. The CONI package we offer to a family is unique to what they feel their needs are and it is led by them and supported by the professionals involved.
What’s a typical day like?
As every case involving a child is different my days are extremely varied. Last year more than 20,000 children came through the ED in Barnsley, so I was kept extremely busy reviewing each case and ensuring there was nothing untoward that should be red flagged as priority to my community colleagues.
I always visit ED and paediatric areas each day for an update and find out what cases have presented during the previous 24 hours. A majority of cases will be normal everyday accidents such as falling off a trampoline or bike but among them may be more extreme cases for example where injuries have happened that don’t quite add up to the explanations given, or where children are homeless or sadly even deaths of children.
I will also see children on the ward as appropriate and offer advice to parents on health and social issues; this can improve discharge planning for children and ensure that complexities are dealt with in a more streamlined manner. I talk to the paediatricians and nurses on a daily basis and this enable them to let me know about any issues they would like to pass on. I liaise closely with members of the safeguarding adult team including the learning disability liaison nurse and named nurses for children’s safeguarding at BHNFT.
As Barnsley is a general hospital, any children who require more specialist treatment will be transferred out to other hospital providers and I will liaise with my counterparts in other areas to ensure I have the latest information on any children being cared for in other areas of the country.
What’s the best bit about your job?
I am extremely passionate about my role and see every day just how important it is for me to be on hand to identify potential high risk cases in order to protect children and young people. I always have to have in the back of my mind the pressures that ED staff are under and see my role as supporting them rather than adding to their workload. I will advise staff and try to feed back on cases to them as appropriate.
In this role I feel I have the best of both worlds, working in an acute environment but still getting to work alongside the community teams. In my position I am able to keep in the loop of the community practitioner developments and can share my experiences and knowledge with them to hopefully make their job easier.
My role has recently improved with the introduction of a new computer software called Systmone, which allows me to view and enter into the child’s electronic record and send tasks out to the health visitors in Barnsley. I can see quickly what a child’s history is, what contact professionals have had and if they don’t have a health record at all. This IT system is soon to be rolled out to the school nursing service and again this will have a positive impact on my role.
What is your top tip for wellbeing?
Working in the area I do it really makes you appreciate what you have in life and to live in the moment, I love to go home from work to see my beautiful little boy Benjamin who is four and the centre of my Universe. I just wish I had more ‘me’ time to go to the gym!!