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Community nursing can be a great nurse career path

Community nursing can be a great nurse career path

This is an introduction to just some of the community nursing jobs you can apply for as a registered general nurse RGN or a registered mental health nurse RMN. Community nursing is a diverse area and can offer a rewarding nursing career.

Working as a community nurse is a different challenge to working in a ward environment, and one that involves a great deal of autonomy, but it can be incredibly rewarding. Some nurses feel so at home in a community nurse job that they apply there as a newly qualified nurse, others apply having gained some ward experience first. Whichever you choose, there are so many different nursing specialities to explore and career paths to choose from, you will never run out of options.

District Nurse

The primary role of the district nurse is to visit patients in their own home to provide care and to support the family directly involved in looking after the individual. They are professionally responsible for arranging and monitoring the care provided, and in conjunction they also teach family members and sometimes the patient to care for themselves. Ongoing assessments are a key part of the working practice of a district nurse, and there will be a variety of conditions to manage in the caseload. Some patients will be elderly, others with dementia, learning disabilities or physical disabilities, all of whom require individual care plans to be organised by a district nurse.

To be a district nurse you need to already be a qualified nurse and be willing to undertake further training. District nurse training is a specialist practitioner programme and usually takes not less than one academic year to complete. Training can be provided on a secondment from an NHS trust, or by sponsorship from a primary care trust. However, to be successful as a district nurse, you also need to be resourceful, organised, confident and able to handle complex and challenging situations.

School Nurse

A school nurse is usually employed by the local health authority or NHS trust to work with several different schools at any one time. Quite often a school nurse will work with a secondary school and all the primary schools that feed into it, which can mean a caseload of up to 10 schools. In some situations a private school will employ a school nurse to work on site full time.

School Nurses offer a variety of services including health and sex education, health screening and administering immunisation programmes. They need to be excellent communicators and capable of working with children of all ages from all backgrounds. Those nurses with experience in health promotion or children’s nursing may find this a particularly suitable nursing career path. To become a school nurse you need to complete a specialist practitioner - school nurse / specialist community public health nurse qualification, which is a degree level course and can take a year to complete.

Prison Nurse

Prison nurses are community nurses that spend part or all of their working week in prison healthcare. They are more often than not employed the NHS, but on some occasions they are employed by the prison service to work in just one facility. Prison nurses are involved with a wide range of healthcare issues including substance misuse, mental health problems and health promotion. It’s a challenging but rewarding environment and offers the chance to work with people who may not otherwise wish to access the healthcare services they are entitled to.

There is no formal qualification required to become a prison nurse, but you should be either RGN or RMN qualified, unless RNLD branch experience is specifically requested, and have experience of administering a range of treatments similar to a practice nurse in a GP surgery. Prison nurses have to act with the utmost professionalism and sometimes follow specific protocols when working with detainees.

Practice Nurse

A practice nurse works in a GP surgery as part of the primary healthcare community team, which may include dietitians and pharmacists in addition to doctors and nurses. Together they provide an accessible community based healthcare service that offers a wide range of facilities including family planning, health screening, minor injury treatments, administering vaccinations and smoking cessation programmes.

To become a practice nurse you must already be a qualified nurse and have undertaken additional training as advised by your employer. This programme of professional development can lead to promotion to nurse practitioner, at which point you may be given your own caseload to manage.

Community Psychiatric Nurses

CPNs, as their job title is commonly shortened to, are usually band 6 level nurses and work in the community seeing patients with mental health problems. They usually visit patients in their own homes and while treating the patient and can also offer advice to the immediate family about the illness and how to manage it.

A CPN doesn’t need any specific qualification other than to be a registered nurse, but they will usually have several years experience working with mental health patients. Some also progress to complete the nurse prescriber course and can give prescriptions without the approval of a doctor or GP. has a wide range of community nursing jobs, whichever role you choose to work in.

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