What does a district nurse do?

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District nursing comes under the purview of home healthcare. District nurses are one of the many different types of nurses who manage care within the community, rather than in a hospital or private clinic. They visit patients in their homes and provide the necessary advice and care regarding wound management, continence care, catheter care and palliative care amongst others.

These professionals are key members of the primary healthcare team. They play a crucial role in ensuring that patients get the necessary treatment at home thereby keeping hospital admissions and readmissions to a minimum and ensuring that patients can return to their own homes as soon as possible. This helps avoid overcrowding at hospitals and also helps patients reduce their overall medical bills.

This is a great job for anyone who enjoys working in the community, and providing vital care to vulnerable people, some of whom would need to be admitted in a hospital or care home if there were no district nurses.

Detailed job description of a district nurse

District nurses provide home care for patients suffering from a wide range of conditions. Part of their responsibility includes ensuring diabetic patients get regular insulin doses, administering injections and IV fluids, giving chemotherapy to those with cancer and helping the dying live their last few days as painlessly as possible.

In addition to providing direct patient care, these nurses also play a teaching and support role. They teach patients to care for themselves, educate family members about how they can care for their loved one and offer emotional support during this stressful time. Regular assessments of the healthcare needs of patients and supervising the quality of care they are receiving are also the responsibilities of a district nurse.

District nurses care for patients across all ages and medical conditions. However, most of their patients tend to be physically disabled, recently discharged from hospital, terminally ill individuals or elderly individuals who are suffering from irreversible age-related conditions. District nurses may work in several different locations around the community, but they spend most of their time in people’s homes.

Different patients require different types of treatments and also different levels of care. Some patients may require several visits during the day to stay out of the hospital. At one patient’s home, the first task may be to check the patient’s vitals and test for diabetes or high blood pressure. At another patient’s home, the first task may be to check for wound infection and change the dressings. Throughout the day, you will be visiting housebound patients, carrying out necessary nursing duties.

Education and training requirements

District nurse training programmes are also known as specialist practitioner programmes. Most programmes are at the degree level and no less than one academic year full-time or part-time equivalent. There are also courses at post graduate certificate and master’s level.

Essential attributes in this role

This is a great option for someone who prefers working within the community, in particular in peoples’ homes instead of in a hospital. You will need to be confident, resourceful, organised and not afraid.

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Gap Medics provides year-round hospital work experience for people aged 16 and over. Our shadowing placements offer a unique insight into the work of doctors, nurses, midwives and dentists – helping students to focus their career aspirations before embarking upon medical training. 

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