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PRACTITIONER-RESEARCHER  February 2004

PRACTITIONER-RESEARCHER February 2004

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Subject:

Introducing a living enquiry approach to health visiting

From:

Robyn Pound <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Robyn Pound <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sun, 8 Feb 2004 19:32:30 +0000

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Thank you Jack for creating this research space.  Just what I needed to
inspire me to share ideas in writing.

This year is the fortieth anniversary of my becoming a nurse in New Zealand
and the thirtieth of my becoming a health visitor here in the UK.  I feel
shy starting by mentioning this for fear you will think me old, entrenced
and ready for retirement.  Well, that is not how I see it at all.  I
believe I still grow and learn. I continue to experience a great deal of
pleasure and excitement working with families, my colleagues and fellow
researchers. The PhD process helped me identify and develop what I do as a
health visitor with children's future mental health in mind. It also helped
me to understand some different ways of creating knowledge.  I now
recognise the way of being I attempt in my relationship-centred practice
with families and communities is a kind of living enquiry approach that I
call alongsideness. I see this way of being as practice knowledge.  How did
I get to this point of clarity and where am I going next?

Health visiting is a universal community nursing service in the UK with the
intention of promoting health and preventing disease amongst more
vulnerable members of society, most often children.   In the late 1980s I
began to think about the amount of hitting and threatening of children I
saw during my work.  It was usually not severe enough to match the criteria
for child abuse but contributed to emotional distress and behavioural
problems that parents commonly complained about.  I witnessed physical
punishments across the social scale and heard parents, who worked with
children professionally, describe their use of implements on their own
children to achieve the results they sought.  Joining the children's rights
movement I became aware of the amount punitiveness and fault-finding in
communicating with children in our society and its legacy for future mental
health.

Through the process of enquiry as I worked as health visitor I moved from
being a professional who knows what parents should not be doing to children
towards an alongside co-enquiry approach to supporting parents in creating
the kind of family relationships likely to realise their hopes for
children.  In my process I explored questions such as, How can I be
proactive for the sake of children if I am being parent-led? Where does my
passion for acting in this way come from ? How do I influence other
professionals who care for children?  Even though the full meanings of my
beliefs and values that make up alongsideness are lost when abstracted from
the practice in which they are grounded, I summarise them here.
For me now alongsideness is:
* founded on the worth of humanness, in that all people are valuable, have
useful knowledge and are worth my respectful effort
* a belief that people are living in a 'process of becoming' and would
prefer life to be better if only they knew how to achieve it
* belief in the creativity of people who are searching for solutions
the value of self determination for growth and responsibity
*belief in a life affirming energy to be gained from connection between
people.

I constantly need to ask myself, 'Do I live these values wherever I
practice?'  Since finishing my PhD I negotiated the facilitation of a co-
enquiry process, as research, amongst all of my health visiting colleagues
across our health trust.  This is timely for developing health visiting
practice in the face of changing expectations of public health
practitioners.  Alongsideness proves valuable for me as a way of being with
my enquirying peers but it also raises questions about how other
practitioners interpret their ways of being as they approach similar
similar work.  I look forward to sharing ideas as they unfold and hearing
your responses.  Robyn Pound

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