Health visitor. An easy job, right? Sitting on people’s sofas drinking tea and cooing over babies? Not exactly…
Rachael Hearson’s memoir is an earnest advocate for public health services and a look at what it’s actually like to be a health visitor in England today. She also discusses how the job has changed since she started out, forty years ago. This was very interesting, as I have met health visitors a few times (in England they visit you before and after you have babies) and it was good to know more about them. Rachael has plenty of stories to share, some funny, some crazy and others very sad.
Despite the title and cover, this book is not just about a health visitor’s confessions. Rachael spends the first few chapters on her family history, her youth and her training as a nurse and then midwife, before describing her career as a health visitor. Her financial situation is also a significant element of the book. It’s brave of her to share this, as she is challenging our assumptions that anyone who works full time and for the NHS must be well-off. She also feels it’s important to empathise with her clients, many of whom are living in poverty and for whom she is the link to other organisations who can help, such as food banks, social services, charities and benefits offices.
I felt that the writing style of the book was too straight-forward for my taste and that the dramatic situations could have been described with more flair. As far as medical memoirs go, I have read better ones. However, there are some excellent messages in this book and the content is a real eye-opener. There’s an epilogue (hastily written, I think) about coronavirus, which although heartfelt, could have been left out. By the time I read it in early May, it was already a little out of date. Of course it may have been edited before publication, so I wouldn’t have been reading the newest version of the book.
In summary, this is a good read if you want to learn more about what NHS health visitors do and if you like reading memoirs. By way of a content warning, there are cases of child abuse mentioned and also some references to miscarriage and terminations.
Thank you to Mirror Books for the advance copy via NetGalley. Handle with Care will be published on 11th June.