Last week I had a super cool couple of days working with a bunch of nurses, service users and mangers from a Department of Health project called the Family Nurse Partnership.
In summary the programme supports young mums-to-be through pregnancy and childbirth, right through until their kids are toddlers. The idea comes from the USA, where they’ve had some good results (though I gather that anything would be an improvement over there) and initially I was sceptical – was this just another way for the government to seep into people’s lives and spy on them? It turns out that this occurred to some of the young women we spoke to as well.
The reality, though, seems to be quite different. After their initial misgivings, the programme participants were giving some amazing feedback – ‘my nurse is like a member of my family’- was one of the comments we heard. Instead of feeling spied-on, most of them felt supported and like they had someone who was on their side – their nurses were there just when they needed them.
I can’t express how impressed I was with the young women we met. They were all 18-19 years old, each with a child from 9 – 18 months old and far from being the social stereotype of Vicky Pollard, they were bright, articulate and ambitious. Talk after our workshop was of returning to college, getting a job and a place to live.
Blimey, all that AND a small child needing constant care and attention. Sometimes I can’t even look after myself, never mind another tiny human being.
Attitudes to the web were fascinating as well. The programme leaders and managers we spoke to were all about the information and knowledge-sharing – they needed access to the latest research to inform policy decisions. The nurses were much more into sharing experience and talking to peers. The mums were the most web-savvy bunch – they mostly sorted their social lives through Facebook which they used on their phones while on the go. Across the board SMS was the preferred way to communicate, and the most frequent web use was for shopping.
Quite a challenge for those of us who spend our time trying to solve social problems by using the web. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking everyone knows/cares about the latest energy efficiency social network or the newest donate-a-hug to Africa site. It’s only when you meet up with people outside your immediate circle that you realise most of this stuff is completely off the radar. That doesn’t mean it’s not important (though maybe it’s a sort of litmus test) but I think it means we need to widen out to make sure that what we’re doing will be useful and relevant. Hmmm. This is something I need to keep thinking about…