How Important Is Your Public Health Nurse?

During your pregnancy, you may have come across the letters PHN on many forums and websites, however, it may have had no great meaning to you as a pregnant woman.

During your pregnancy, you may have come across the letters PHN on many forums and websites, however, it may have had no great meaning to you as a pregnant woman. When you become a parent though, these letters might just make all the difference.

In Ireland, when a woman has a baby, regardless of how many children she already has, she will be assigned a Public Health Nurse.
This nurse will be an important link between the parents and many health services in Ireland. She will be a liaison between the parents and acquiring help should they need them in a variety of physical and psychological fields.
But perhaps, more importantly, the PHN should be a great support to new parents. They will have you and your baby’s best interests at heart and they should be a positive force during a time of great change.

Public Health Nurses work for local health centres. They do a variety of work in the community such as school visits, home check-ups and wound care to name but a few. They play a great role in helping all members of a community from newborn babies right up to the vulnerable and elderly. They also play a very important role in the lives of new parents.

Within the first forty-eight hours since being discharged from your maternity hospital, the PHN will pay you a visit. They specialise in the needs of you and your baby following the amazing and life-altering experience of giving birth and indeed being born. They will weigh your baby, give them an overall check-up and help support you with the baby’s feeding and general care.
They will also pay close attention to the mother’s physical and emotional healing to ensure that she feels looked after following labour which for many women can be a very traumatic experience. The PHN has a responsibility to ask and notice if a new parent is struggling and requires additional help or support. This check-up usually happens in the family home which makes it a very unique experience. It feels less clinical and more like a friend or family member visiting.

As time goes on, your PHN will have several scheduled visits with you and your baby. They will monitor your child’s development and provide an open forum for any concerns or questions you might be having. They will liaise with your family GP and hospital to ensure the relevant referrals or queries are dealt with at the earliest possible stage. These concerns may be surrounding your child’s physical, emotional or psychological development. When you are concerned about your child’s development it can be a very worrying time and having access to a pleasant human being who understands the processes and procedures is worth its weight in gold.

On a personal level, I cannot emphasise how much of a difference my own PHN made to me. She gave me great support with breastfeeding when I was struggling and we went on to breastfeed for two years with her constant praise and support. She also made me feel extremely comfortable when I had a problem with my sutures and needed to go back to the maternity hospital to have it assessed. On top of this, she helped me to get the wheels in motion when we noticed that my son had a turn in his eye. The relevant referrals were made and he is now very much “in the system” and being monitored regularly by a specialist at four years of age.

The most important thing for me was the unexpected friendship I received. Never leaving the professional bounds of her role, I still felt as though I could have told my PHN anything and nothing but support would be given. She helped me find my feet as a new mother and now that I am expecting baby number two and living in a different geographical area I can only hope to be as lucky as I was the last time with my Public Health Nurse. She really made all the difference.

Tracey is a happy mammy to four-year-old Billy. She is a breastfeeder, gentle parent and has recently lost five stone so healthy family eating is her passion! You can find her at


Tracey Quinn

Proud mum of two who got married on Don't Tell The Bride and had an accidental home-birth (loves a good story). She's passionate about breastfeeding, positive thinking & all things cosy.

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