A time study of health visitors' work
This study has used the objective method of time study in a description and analysis of health visiting in Aberdeen. Twenty-one health visitors were observed over a total of eighty-one working days. The main features of health visitors' work are home visiting, travelling, clerical tasks, clinics and group teaching. The time allocated to these various activities has been compared with the results of previous studies - the most notable trend being the gradual reduction in clinic work and the relative importance of clerical work for this group of health visitors. 472 home visits were timed in detail allowing a precise description of their content in terms of both activity and topic. Some client, health visitor and organisational characteristics have been used in an attempt to identify factors influencing the length and nature of the visit. Of these the social class and the age/family composition of the client group seemed to exert the most noticeable effects. Listening was the main health visitor activity in 52% of visits. In 83% of visits more than ten topics were discussed. Communication and referral patterns were also analysed; the health visitor made far more referrals than they received (343:153). The majority of these were within the sphere of the primary health care/community health service although it was considered that the extent of 'teamwork' was limited. The findings have been examined in the context of recent reports and policy documents and some of the implications for health visitor recruitment and training discussed.