Handle With Care

True Confessions of an NHS Health Visitor

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Pub Date 11 Sep 2020 | Archive Date 24 Jul 2020

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Health Visiting is one of those professions that most people think is a bit of a non-job. 'You just sit on sofas and drink tea, don't you? It's not like you're a real nurse, in hospital.' Well, Health Visitors are real nurses, with at least three years' training, and they are out there, on their own. No back-up team or support structures to call for help if they're in a dicey situation. No warm lights, tea breaks spent chatting in the canteen, nobody else to ask, 'is this okay, what do you think?' Over 40 years working in the NHS, Rachael Hearson has been chased down an isolated stairwell by crack-fuelled drug-addicted pimps, threatened by a knife-wielding wife-beater in a hostel, unwittingly visited a brothel... And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

Health Visiting is one of those professions that most people think is a bit of a non-job. 'You just sit on sofas and drink tea, don't you? It's not like you're a real nurse, in hospital.' Well...

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ISBN 9781913406035
PRICE $15.95 (USD)

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Featured Reviews

A warts and all telling of life and ups and downs of a health visitor and the characters and situations that her job throws at her. Her tale starts at the very beginning growing up and going into nurse training, told honestly like you’re chatting with a friend over a drink giving you her life story. Fascinating insight. Would recommend.
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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.

NB. This review will be published on my blog on June 3rd.

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I was gripped from the start with this book, I loved going through the journey of Rachel’s career and elements of her personal life. She is so warm and kind, the book demonstrates how much she really cares for the people she sees and how she wants the best for them.

I don’t have any children at the moment so have never had personal experience with a health visitor, in fact before this book I could only give you a rough idea of what I thought they did. I didn’t even know they were nurses! I thought they were professionals but didn’t know they were nurses.

Rachel and others like her are the backbones of our NHS, it is times like these we realise how important our NHS is. Racheal entered the NHS over 40 years ago as a student nurse, before continuing and becoming a health visitor. She cared for her family and all the people she was assigned to visit. We go with her to a number of households and situations discovering some people are doing well, others struggling but will get there with a helping hand and others who aren’t suitable parents no matter how many people try to help.

I loved this book, it isn’t the same as an Adam Kay book but it never claimed to be. This is Rachel Hearson’s experience, no one else’s. The book does have more of a focus on Rachel and her life and career rather than a tell-all on her patients which I enjoyed.

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In this book we see how a health visitor lives and the journey to the job that ensued from training, moving, furthering education and falling into hard times and learning who true friends are while dealing with the demanding task of caring for babies and children living in the community from the happy to the threatened, uncared for in squalor in shows the huge social divide in society and how health workers put their lives on the line to help out new and experienced mother's trying to cope.

It was a very open and honest book and gave a full perspective on what various things health visitors have to go through and see in all the situations they face it was frank, open and very honest and shows what dedication they have to the job, especially in Rachael's case.

Many thanks to the publishers for allowing me to review this book for them!

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Very good read.

I really enjoyed Rachael Hearson's memoir. She joined the NHS as a student nurse 40 years ago. She's worked as a nurse, midwife, and health visitor-the latter for 30 years. I have read memoirs by doctors, nurses, surgeons, midwives etc; but never a health visitor, so I thought this would be interesting for a change. It certainly was.

You just think they call in for a cosy chat and a coffee; see how mum and baby is doing. Yes, if they're lucky-the reality is usually much different with all manner of conditions, moods and scenarios to deal with.

The author was born in Devon, in 1960, and from a Romany travelling family on her dad's side. So really, she's been there. Her childhood home wasn't that packed with facilities-eg outside lav etc. She's not been wrapped up in cotton wool.

I know my mum used to think that perhaps some health visitors in her day "knew nowt". "What do they know? They've probably never had any children" etc. Well, yes, she has. And she knows her stuff: She's been a nurse and a midwife before becoming a health visitor, so you sort of get a 'three for the price of one' memoir.

Very revealing-she's been through many things, she's had some hard times too, she's not stuffy and talking down to you.

Wow, some of the situations she faces! They do much more than you think-it's not just baby clinics! An eye-opening memoir, and a very good read.

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The memoir follows the author's upbringing and early years as a trainee at St Barts then St Thomas's and Guys.Hospitals. We learn all about her career as trainee, a nurse, a midwife and ultimately the Health Visitor. There is personal info about her husband., their own financial struggles and about their two children BB and GG.

We are told "stories from the frontline" some which are downright scary, heart in the mouth moments along with sadness, poverty, happiness along with flashes of humour. You can tell that Rachael absolutely loved her career and found it very fulfilling.

She touches on everyday life and the role of the Health Visitor - having to deal with domestic abuse, neglect, mental health issues, self harm, foodbanks and endless amounts of paperwork.

I found it an interesting read.

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I’d like to thank Mirror Books and NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to read ‘Handle With Care’ by Rachael Hearson in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

Rachael Hearson has spent forty years working in the NHS firstly as a nurse training at St Barts in London, then at St Thomas’ & Guy’s as a midwife, and finally as a health visitor where she’s been for the last thirty years. This book is her memoirs of times good and bad, funny and sad, but all of them unmissable.

‘Handle With Care’ is the autobiography of Ms Hearson who describes her years from childhood to the present day. I’ve enjoyed reading the anecdotes of her cases, some of which made me laugh out loud and others that left me with a tear in my eye. The descriptions she gives are hilarious such as using the WC in the yard with spiders waiting to pounce, and the shortcomings of a certain brand of toilet paper - I remember it all too well from past experience! She’s very candid about the difficulties her family experiences when money is non-existent and food for her children is more important than petrol. As a mother myself I’m aware of how welcome a health visitor is when help and guidance is required with a new baby but this book is an eye-opener on what else the job encompasses. On reaching the last few pages I’m amazed at how up-to-date this book is to mention the dreadful Coronavirus pandemic and what’s going on in the world. I have great respect and gratitude for the dedication of Ms Hearson and all those who work selflessly for our NHS, the best health service in the world.

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Handle With Care is the autobiography of Rachael Hearson from her childhood in North Devon to her Nurse's training at St Barts in London and her subsequent career as a Health Visitor in various parts of the country. As she points out most people seem to think that Health Visitors turn up for a cup of tea and a chat and aren't "real nurses". While that's far from the truth, as Ms Hearson points out , sometimes that cuppa and a chat is just what vulnerable people need to open up ,someone to listen to people not used to people listening, Health Visitors are not only fully trained "real nurses" but have to undergo a lot of further training. As well as some of the quite shocking experiences she has, people living in appalling squalor and often being in physical danger she tells how the NHS and help for the vulnerable has changed in the 40 years of her sterling work and I don't think many readers would be surprised that it's not been for the better. Reading the book also shows how many dedicated people in hospitals and various social services try to perform miracles with ever decreasing budgets and increasing workloads for little more than they could earn in a supermarket.
As well as "the medical stuff" Ms Hearson's tales of her Barnstaple childhood are fascinating,an area I know quite well and I even know people who would have been in the same block of Council Flats in Plymouth while she lived there. Shes; quite scathing about the benefits system as well, like many she experienced it personally and unexpectedly when her husband lost his job. The book is quite political but Ms Hearson has seen the NHS and support for vulnerable eroded over the years with more people left feeling hopeless and isolated. It's far from a rant though and there are many bits of humour along the way as well as stories of people who improved their lives with a bit of help and just as importantly someone taking a genuine interest in them.
Rachael Hearson comes across as a very empathetic and caring person, her whole working life has been one of helping and supporting people. This is a great book on many levels,highly recommended .

Thanks to Rachael Hearson, Mirror Books and Netgalley for the ARC in return for an honest review.

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"There is absolute joy and fulfilment in health visiting".

I really enjoyed this book. I read it in one sitting as I found both her personal and professional stories fascinating. The author has definitely a lot of love for her job. I agree with the other reviews that the book definitely needs more cases and more narrative in the existing cases as it tends to navigate more to an autobiography.
Nevertheless, I found the book captivating and the epilogue really satisfying, especially her commentary on the coronavirus (written in April 2020).

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This is non fiction at its very best. I love a medical based non fiction and this is one of the better ones I’ve read.

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A really interesting view of life as a nurse, midwife and then health visitor working in the NHS. Hearson has worked in the NHS for roughly as long as I've been alive and she has seen a great many changes. I wish I'd have read this book before I had my kids so that I knew more of what a health visitor was able to help me with as a new mother.. A tale of women (and some men) trying to do their best against the backdrop of changing political parties, regulations and ever reducing funding. Recommended for all those who want to diss the NHS.

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My thanks to Netgalley and Mirror books for a copy of Handle with care by Rachel Hearson for an honest review.
I love reading books that give you an insight into the Occupations of others,, especially those in the medical field, where it is definitely a vocation and not a job
Handle with care doesn’t disappoint.!
Rachel Hearson has worked as a midwife and a health visitor .As she says ,she wants to convey the very best bits of her job as well as some of the challenges in her book.She certainly does this and shows how she, and I suppose so many in her profession , go above and beyond their job description, by helping out financially and emotionally,
It takes a special sort of person to deal with what she has seen and had to do and her humour and compassion shine through every page.
Would definitely recommend

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I was keen to read handle with care as I did my registered nurse training in the eighties so could relate to the authors experiences and it certainly bought back memories for me! I found this book an interesting enlightening read particularly as the author had experienced many of the trials and tribulations that her clients had so could relate to them so much better! The difference in the service offered today compared to the past was drastic, although many of the problems such as poverty, depression and poor housing still persist today!A good interesting read that I enjoyed!
Thank you net galley for this early read.

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I really enjoy these types of books about the emergency services etc and this one did not disappoint. It was well written and gave a great insight into the NHS and it’s services.

Thank you NetGalley for my complimentary copy in return for my honest review.

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A remarkable testament to the health visitor, from a vastly experienced and highly qualified member of that profession. Nothing, it seems is beyond their official remit. Alongside the day to day routine visits are the dramas, crises, tragedies. And the health visitor is there in the front line. Theirs is a complex multi- functional role: nurse, carer, social worker, counsellor, surrogate mother/big sister/auntie, for everyone who has a new born for two years. And later,those functioning or barely functioning in the most complex circumstances.
Rachael Hearson’s dedication, determination not to allow an under-funded system to destroy her professionalism, her empathy and understanding of the most needy and vulnerable is both impressive and deeply moving. She has seen it all.
An epilogue updates her experiences to take in the impact too of Coronavirus.
All we can do is be thankful there are professionals like her in every community, tirelessly driven to support and protect.

Thank you @NetGalley and @MirrorBooks for my free pre-release download.

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This is the story of a health visitor’s career, spanning over four decades.
As an ex-social worker, a bit younger than the author, this account took me back to the ‘good old days’ when we had time to form genuine relationships with clients and do real good.
The book ends in the present day - funding cut and visits reduced, if happening at all. The health visitor too is the victim of bureaucracy and crisis-management.
But there is a ray of hope even as Hearson ends in the middle of the coronavirus crisis: will we learn to appreciate NHS colleagues and the service they provide? Could it be the start of appreciation being followed by pay rises?
Hearson writes with humour and tracing her career from nurse to midwife to health visitor is fascinating. She’s also honest about her own life and when she falls on hard times, which really adds to her account.
I thoroughly enjoyed it and it brought back a few memories of my own social work career: recommended.

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A really interesting book looking into a nurse/healthcare story.
Good insight into the NHS and things we don’t see.
An enjoyable read

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A really interesting book giving a completely different insight into the NHS and different sectors of the service. The harsh realist of frontline work and how it has changed is mnd blowing.

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