District Nurse

The Job and What's Involved

As a district nurse, you would care for people in a variety of non-hospital settings including patients' homes, GP surgeries and residential care homes. You would respond quickly to patients' needs to help them avoid being admitted into hospital. With your community-based support, patients who do go into hospital may be discharged more quickly.

Your work would involve visiting clients with a range of conditions on a regular basis (sometimes several times a day). You would assess their needs, and plan and manage their care. Your clients would typically include:

- Older people with health problems
- Those with terminal illness
- People who are physically disabled

Your day-to-day duties could include:

  • Administering drugs.
  • Checking temperature, blood pressure and breathing.
  • Assisting doctors with physical examinations.
  • Giving injections.
  • Cleaning and dressing wounds.
  • Monitoring or setting up drips.
  • Providing emotional support and practical advice to patients and their families.
  • Teaching basic caring skills (where needed).

You could also be involved in running clinics (for example, for people with diabetes) and carrying out a range of emergency procedures (for example when arriving at the scene of an accident, when a client has taken a fall, had an injury or cardiac arrest).

Evening and weekend work is becoming increasingly common, and in many services you will work a shift between the hours of 8am and 8pm. You may also cover an on-call rota outside the standard service times.

You would usually be based in a health centre, as part of a community health care team. You are likely to travel extensively within the geographical area your service covers.

This work can be very demanding, both physically and emotionally.

Nurses can earn between £20,700 and £26,800 year. District nurses can earn between £24,000 and £33,500 a year.

Team managers can earn up to £39,300.

Extra allowances can be earned for additional responsibilities and length of service.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

You will usually need between one and two years' professional experience as a qualified adult nurse before you can begin training as a district nurse.

To qualify as a nurse you need a Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) approved degree or Diploma of Higher Education. For more information about becoming a nurse, check the Adult Nurse job guide.

You will find most jobs within local Primary Care Trusts and generally you will be attached to one or more GP surgery.

Education and Training

Training to become a district nurse involves taking a (shortened) degree or postgraduate programme leading to registration as a Specialist Community Public Health Nurse - District Nursing (course titles may vary).

Check the NMC website for a list of approved programmes.

Courses can be full- or part-time. You could fund yourself or you may be able to find a vacancy, for example on the NHS Jobs website, that includes working under supervision, receiving a salary and studying for the specialist qualification.

You could also contact your local Primary Care Trust or your employer (if you are currently working as a nurse in the NHS) about student sponsorship opportunities.

Your training will include practical, community placements and study areas such as:

- Community practice
- Care management
- Public health
- Clinical practice development
- Leadership skills

You are likely to need a driving licence for this work.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

As a qualified nurse you need to renew your registration with the NMC every three years. To re-register you must:

Have worked a minimum of 450 hours.

Show that you are developing your knowledge and competence and keeping up to date in your practice.

Complete a minimum of 35 hours' professional study every three years.

Keep records of your professional development.

If you have had a break from working as a nurse and your registration has lapsed you will need to take a return-to-practice course. Courses are available throughout the UK and include a mixture of theory and clinical placements. Contact your local NHS Trust or check the NMC website for a list of approved programmes.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A district nurse needs:

  • The ability to relate to people of all ages and backgrounds.
  • Excellent communication and listening skills.
  • An assertive, confident and flexible approach.
  • Tact, understanding, patience and sensitivity.
  • The ability to teach others how to carry out routine nursing tasks.
  • Good team working skills and the ability to work alone.
  • Good time keeping.
  • A thorough approach to record keeping and good organisational skills.
  • The ability to anticipate and identify potential health problems.

Your Long Term Prospects

With experience you could lead a team of nurses, and with around five years' experience you could progress to community matron. You could go into general health service management, or progress to head of community nursing.

Alternatively, you could go into health promotion, research, education (nurse training/teaching) or working with a statutory nursing body, developing training.

You may also have the option of working overseas, especially in developing countries.

Get Further Information

Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC),
23 Portland Place, London W1B 1PZ
Tel: 020 7333 9333
Website: www.nmc-uk.org

Queens University of Belfast,
School of Nursing and Midwifery,
Medical Biology Centre, 97 Lisburn Road, Belfast BT9 7BL
Tel: 028 9097 2233
Website: www.qub.ac.uk

University of Ulster at Jordanstown,
School of Nursing, Shore Road,
Newtownabbey, Co Antrim BT37 0QB
Tel: 08700 400 700
Website: www.ulster.ac.uk

NHS Careers,
PO Box 376, Bristol BS99 3EY
Tel: 0345 60 60 655
Website: www.nhscareers.nhs.uk

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