Special advice that makes parenthood precious

Family Nurse Karen McGilvery with Adam, Katrina and little Tyler
Family Nurse Karen McGilvery with Adam, Katrina and little Tyler

A young couple from Ayrshire have been sharing their experiences of becoming parents in their teens.

Katrina Kennedy and Adam Thomson, along with their four-month-old son Tyler, were the guests of honour when the national Clinical Director and Policy Lead for the Family Nurse Partnership programme visited NHS Ayrshire & Arran for the Partnership’s annual review.

The innovative Family Nurse Partnership (FNP) programme begins in early pregnancy and focuses on helping young women to have a healthy pregnancy and to feel confident about supporting their baby to grow, develop and learn.

The programme involves a pattern of weekly and fortnightly visits from early pregnancy through to the child’s second birthday, and is designed to help young women and their partners develop an understanding of their baby, behaviour change, emotional development and the building of positive relationships.

Katrina and Adam were 19 when Tyler was born, and say that pregnancy and parenthood would have been much more difficult emotionally without the help and support of their family nurse, Karen McGilvery. Katrina explains: “I’ve really enjoyed it. I like the fact that it starts in pregnancy and we got the chance to know and trust Karen. It was also helpful going through all the essentials so we knew what to do and what we needed to have before Tyler was born.”

Adam adds: “It felt good to have constant support and to know you could lift the phone and have a person there to help you.”

Katrina and Adam stress that the Family Nurse Partnership has given them the confidence and resilience to embrace parenthood – but still follow their dreams. As the programme is built round each individual’s needs and circumstances, one of the first questions the couple were asked was, “What’s your heart’s desire, and where do you want to be in three years’ time.” For Adam, his ambition was to go to university to study Psychology, and at first he thought impending fatherhood would put a stop to his plans. But with the support of Family Nurse Karen, who scheduled her visits round Adam’s university timetable to keep him involved, he was able to pursue his dream and be there for his new family, too.

Adam explains: “The programme gave me the confidence to go to university and make being a dad work, too.”

Katrina points out: “Dads can get pushed out during pregnancy, but we felt we had constant support. We look forward to every meeting, we don’t want to miss a single one. Overall it’s been a very positive experience and I would recommend it to anyone. And Adam’s involvement was one of the best things about it.”

The Family Nurse Partnership programme was developed in the US by Professor David Olds over a period of 30 years. NHS Ayrshire & Arran is the fifth Scottish health board to introduce the programme, which will be introduced across Scotland by 2015. So far the team of one supervisor and seven nurses have worked with more than 150 young mums-to-be across Ayrshire, including the islands of Cumbrae and Arran.

Donna McKee, NHS Ayrshire & Arran’s Family Nurse Partnership Lead, explains: “We are very grateful to Gail Trotter, the Clinical Director of the FNP National Unit, and Carolyn Wilson, FNP Policy Lead, for coming to meet us to share our experiences and learning and to help us identify areas for further development. They were impressed with the way the programme has been implemented in Ayrshire and Arran and in particular the close partnership working and strong relationships between the NHS and local authority services. And of course they recognised the excellent FNP team, who’ve faced and successfully overcome many challenges along the way. Katrina and Adam’s story is a wonderful example of the Family Nurse Partnership in action, and Tyler was the star of the show.”