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District nursing

District nurses play a crucial role in the primary health care team. They visit people in their own homes or in residential care homes, providing increasingly complex care for patients and supporting family members.

Watch our short film below featuring three district nurses talking about their careers. 

Read the transcript.

As well as providing direct patient care, district nurses also have a teaching and support role, working with patients to enable them to care for themselves or with family members teaching them how to give care to their relatives. They are also accountable for their own patient caseloads. 

District nurses play a vital role in keeping hospital admissions and readmissions to a minimum and ensuring that patients can return to their own homes as soon as possible.

You will assess the healthcare needs of patients and families, monitor the quality of care they're receiving and be professionally accountable for delivery of care. Your patients can be of any age, but often many of them will be elderly, while others may have been recently discharged from hospital, be terminally ill or have physical disabilities.

You may be visiting patients every day or more than once a day, offering help, advice and support. You may work on your own or with other groups, such as the social services, voluntary agencies and other NHS organisations and help to provide and co-ordinate a wide range of care services.

Skills required

You must be a qualified and registered nurse and will need to undertake further training. You will need to be adaptable and resourceful, working in a variety of workplaces and without the resources of a hospital at hand. 

You'll need to be well organised, confident and able to cope in potentially challenging situations. Leadership and management skills are also important as you will supervise and lead a team of community staff nurses and healthcare assistants in the delivery of care.


District nurse training programmes are known as specialist practitioner programmes and are at degree level. You can also find courses at post graduate certificate and masters level. They are normally no less than one academic year (32 weeks) full time or part-time equivalent.

Specialist practitioner programmes comprise 50% theory and 50% practice and concentrate on four areas:

  • clinical nursing practice
  • care and programme management
  • clinical practice development
  • clinical practice leadership.

Community staff nurses can be funded onto a district nurse specialist practitioner programme via their employing organisation.

Sponsorship opportunities are also available each year, usually with a September start, for applicants with the relevant registration and experience. These are advertised in the nursing press, including the NHS Jobs website, about six months prior to the September start date.

Job vacancies

Job vacancies in the NHS appear in a range sources, including the NHS Jobs website.

More information

Visit the Community Practitioners and Health Visitors Association and The Queen's Nursing Institute.