Working in partnership: the application of shared decision-making to health visitor practice

Ruth Astbury, Ashley Shepherd, Helen Cheyne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


To explore the processes that support shared decision-making when health visitors and parents are creating plans to improve the well-being of babies and children.

Worldwide, there is a focus on promoting children's well-being to enhance the population health. Within the United Kingdom, health visitors have a key responsibility for working in partnership with parents to support this agenda. Despite evidence that the application of 'shared decision-making' frameworks can increase patient participation, improve patient satisfaction and improve health outcomes, there is limited research linking shared decision-making with health visitor practice.

A qualitative, descriptive study.

The study was undertaken in two phases: in Phase 1, data were collected by audio recording two health visitor-parent decision-making conversations, in the absence of the researcher, where decisions around planning for a baby or child were being made as part of usual care, and then the participants' experiences were sought through individual questionnaires. In Phase 2, semistructured interviews were conducted with nine health visitors and nine parents in relation to their recent experiences of planning care.

Evidence of supportive processes included having a shared understanding around the issue needing to be addressed; being able to identify interventions that were accessible for the family; engaging in decision-making through deep, meaningful conversations using sensitive and responsive approaches; and establishing positive relationships between health visitors and parents, significant others within the family and other professionals.

Despite evidence of strong, trusting relationships between parents and health visitors, there were times when shared decision-making was unable to take place due to the absence of supportive processes.

Health visitors are aware that planning interventions with parents can be complex. These findings indicate the value of using a shared decision-making framework to structure planning, as application of a framework identified the processes that support a collaborative approach in practice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215-224
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Clinical Nursing
Issue number1-2
Early online date27 Jul 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017


  • health visiting
  • practice development
  • public health nursing
  • shared decision-making


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