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‘Social distancing has helped me get closer to those I support,’ says family nurse

Family nurse Alison Ancrum has found an unexpected positive side to the coronavirus pandemic – going for socially distanced walks with parents and their children to help them open up and be more frank.

Like many people who provide care, Alison has had to adapt the way she provides support to young families.

As she needs to observe families interacting, it is not ideal to carry out consultations on the phone or via video link so one day she suggested she went for a walk with a young mother and 18-month-old child she was working with.

This proved to be a revelation as she saw the mother’s parenting style and interactions with her son in a whole new light.

Alison, who works as a nurse for the Family Nurse Partnership in Wiltshire provided by ourselves at Virgin Care, said: “I needed to see the family face to face and since lockdown we had to wear PPE in her home where we held the visits. The problem was with a very active 18-month-old child in a small flat it was very hard to keep a safe distance.

“I knew the mum walked every day so we decided we would go out for my visit. This turned out to be a revelation as I was able to observe how the mum related to the child and the skills she used far better than in the home environment.

“She was extremely organised and well prepared for the walk taking both reins so her son could walk and a push chair for when he was tired. She walked at his pace, was very consistent in her approach to him, she let him explore the environment, she spoke to him very evenly. The attention was on the little boy and the meeting was very child focussed in a way it would not have been in the home.

“I got a real insight into their relationship and it was brilliant to see her doing so well with her child. It was a privilege to share that and I came away from the meeting thinking  that was the beauty of my job – seeing someone who I had been working with for two years, who had not had an easy time,  in a different light and doing so well. It was a unique experience.

“Also, because our meeting was more relaxed and perhaps because we were walking side by side rather than facing each other, the mum also opened up about some very personal issues which she would probably not have mentioned had the appointment been in her flat. It is as if social distancing has actually helped me get closer to those I support, in a way.”

Alison has now adopted going for walks for appointments with other parents and children and says it is amazing how much information she can pick up from seeing how they relate to each other outside the home.

Alison works as a nurse for the Family Nurse Partnership in Wiltshire. This service works with young mothers who were under 19 at conception and aims to help them prepare for birth and being a parent. The service helps with parenting skills as well as providing support with social and economic needs and provides advice on where to get help elsewhere if it is needed.

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