Nature and frequency of services provided by child and family health nurses in Australia: results of a national survey
Objective Australia has a system of universal child and family health (CFH) nursing services providing primary health services from birth to school entry. Herein, we report on the findings of the first national survey of CFH nurses, including the ages and circumstances of children and families seen by CFH nurses and the nature and frequency of the services provided by these nurses across Australia. Methods A national survey of CFH nurses was conducted. Results In all, 1098 CFH nurses responded to the survey. Over 60% were engaged in delivering primary prevention services from a universal platform. Overall, 82.8% reported that their service made first contact with families within 2 weeks of birth, usually in the home (80.7%). The proportion of respondents providing regular support to families decreased as the child aged. Services were primarily health centre based, although 25% reported providing services in other locations (parks, preschools).The timing and location of first contact, the frequency of ongoing services and the composition of families seen by nurses varied across Australian jurisdictions. Nurses identified time constraints as the key barrier to the delivery of comprehensive services. Conclusions CFH nurses play an important role in supporting families across Australia. The impact of differences in the CFH nursing provision across Australia requires further investigation. What is known about the topic? Countries that offer universal well child health services demonstrate better child health and developmental outcomes than countries that do not. Australian jurisdictions offer free, universal child and family health (CFH) nursing services from birth to school entry. What does this paper add? This paper provides nation-wide data on the nature of work undertaken by CFH nurses offering universal care. Across Australia, there are differences in the timing and location of first contact, the frequency of ongoing services and the range of families seen by nurses. What are the implications for practitioners? The impact for families of the variation in CFH nursing services offered across Australia is not known. Further research is required to investigate the outcomes of the service provision variations identified in the present study.