Catching up with our national health superhero

21 Dec 2018

In September, we announced that Janine Clark, a children and families support worker from Glasgow, was our national health superhero. We met up with Jan to chat to her about what it’s like to be a support worker and why she loves it so much.

Jan started in the NHS as an auxiliary nurse in paediatrics and stayed in this role for 18 years before taking on her current role in 2002. Although she’s seen many changes to the way she works over the years, her aim of supporting new families has stayed the same.

Jan is always looking for ways to support new families and has organised baby massage classes and breastfeeding support sessions and now helps with immunisation clinics. “I meet the parents and make sure they have all their necessary details with them before they see the staff nurse.” She also works at drop-in clinics where parents can get their babies weighed and discuss any questions or concerns they may have. Jan loves the variety her role gives her, telling us, “I have the best of both worlds because I help at the clinics but I also still get to do home visits and see the families in their own environments.” Mixing these different methods of support gives her a chance to meet with and help as many families as possible in an environment that works for them.

A changing role

“More families need support now than before but there are also more external agencies and organisations that we can refer families to, which takes some of the pressure away from the NHS,” Jan tell us.

Every family that Jan works with has different needs, so her role involves providing a range of support, from parenting technique advice to financial guidance and the supply of foodbank vouchers. She works closely with Families First, Barnardo’s, and Home Start to provide families with advice on finding the most suitable energy tariff or benefits scheme as well as helping them to find housing or get back into work. The availability of these organisations means that Jan is able to make sure families have access to the help that’s right for them.

Over her 16 years as a support worker, Jan has also seen developments in technology transform the way she works. Now, she uses EMIS Mobile when going out on home visits. “It makes it so much easier to check an address or phone number so that I can plan my journeys and let families know when I’m on my way.” Back at base, she makes use of EMIS Web and says what a difference digitising patient records has made to her role. “I can’t ever imagine going back to paper records. Now I can be on the phone to someone and easily bring up all their information in front of me, rather than having to manually search through paper files.”

Going the extra mile

Going above and beyond for the families she supports is why Jan was nominated as our national health superhero. Not only does she refer families to the most appropriate agency for them, but she also works closely with a local charity shop to provide necessary clothing and furniture for families who don’t have access to benefits. She’s also taken the time to accompany parents to groups and sessions if they’ve been nervous about attending or haven’t done so before. This extra support is invaluable to many of the families, and gives them the confidence they need to seek the right help and advice.

Helping families overcome challenges

Jan’s passion is making sure the children she supports are able to reach their outcomes and that their families have all the support and advice they need to make this happen. “I just love my job. I never have a day where I don’t want to go in,” says Jan. “Every day is different because there are so many families who need support, ranging from those who’re struggling financially to those who come from different backgrounds but need some parenting support.”

“If the help isn’t there at the beginning of a child’s life, it can have effects later down the line, so we’re making sure these families get the best start possible.”

“There are some families we work with from ten days after the birth of a baby, right up until that baby turns five and starts school. It’s just great to see the impact of what we do and to watch families overcome their initial challenges.”

The support Jan provides to the new families in her community goes above and beyond and she is wholly dedicated to ensuring they have everything they need to reach their outcomes and milestones. After our chat, it’s easy to see why Jan is our national health superhero.