Most of those outside the healthcare profession would assume that nurses stay only within the confines of the hospital to assist doctors, perform bedside care to patients and do the same nursing tasks over and over. What most do not know about the nursing profession is that it is not limited to bedside care and that it actually houses a variety of specializations to choose from. One example of which is district nursing, but what is it about? What are district nurses and what do they do? Let’s find out.
District nurses are nurses who provide specialized care/treatment for patients and families in their own homes, if housebound due to their medical condition, or in a clinic run by district nurses. They coordinate patient care, from admission to the service, until they transfer care back to the GP practice. District nurses also work closely with the patient and their health team to ensure the patient receives the best possible care. Specifically, they assess and respond quickly to their needs, and plan and manage their care.
District nurses may also be involved in running clinics such as for people with diabetes, and in carrying out a range of emergency procedures such as when arriving at the scene of an accident, or when a client has taken a fall, had an injury or a cardiac arrest.
- administering drugs
- checking temperature, blood pressure and breathing
- assisting doctors with physical examinations
- giving injections
- cleaning and dressing wounds
- monitoring or setting up intravenous drips
- providing emotional support and practical advice to patients and their families
- teaching basic caring skills where needed
Clients of district nurses often include:
- older people with health problems
- those with terminal illnesses
- people who are physically disabled
Though in many services, district nurses work a shift between 8am and 8pm, they may also be on an on-call rota covering hours outside standard service times and would usually be based at a health center, as part of a community health care team. They are also likely to travel extensively within the geographical area their service covers.
How do I become one?
For one to become a district nurse, you usually need between one and two years’ professional experience as a qualified adult nurse before you can begin training as a district nurse. And for you to qualify as a nurse you will need a Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) approved degree.
Training to become a district nurse involves taking a shortened degree or postgraduate program which leads to registration as a Specialist Community Public Health Nurse – District Nursing. Course titles may vary and courses may either be full-time or part-time.
Training will include practical community placements and studying areas such as:
- community practice
- care management
- public health
- clinical practice development
- leadership skills