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District nursing

District nursing: skills, training and job roles

Role of a district nurse

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 care for patients and supporting family members.

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

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.

As a district nurse, you will assess the health care 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 (see below). You will need to be adaptable and resourceful, working in a variety of workplaces and without the resources of a hospital at hand. For information about training as a registered nurse,  please click here

You’ll need to be well organised, confident and able to cope in potentially challenging situations.


District nurse training programmes are known as specialist practitioner programmes and are at degree level. They are normally no less than one academic year (32 weeks) full time or part-time equivalent. They may be completed in a shorter period of time where credit is given for prior learning or experience.

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 trust. Alternatively, applicants with the relevant registration and experience can apply for sponsorship via primary care trusts.

More information

For more information about working as a district nurse, contact Community and District Nursing Association