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How to… move into a community setting

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Susan Hughes of the Health Learning and Skills Advice Line gives staff nurses advice on moving into the community.

A lack of opportunities to study towards a specialist qualification can put off staff nurses from a career in the community. But a qualification is not the only way to make the switch. Many nurses become a community staff nurse first and then explore whether funding for specialist community nursing programmes is available.

To become a community staff nurse, your first stop should be the NHS Jobs website where you’ll find the latest vacancies. Remember to use the search term “community staff nurse” when looking. Then look at the job descriptions and person specifications for each, even if they are not in your area. At least then you’ll be able to gauge what employers typically look for.

A successful applicant will need to convince an employer that they can make the transition to community nursing. Examples of observation and practice demonstrating your understanding of community nursing will help, so draw on your experiences from pre-registration training. As employers like to see evidence of continuous study, ensure your CPD records are also up-to-date.

Research is also essential. Most community staff nurses will work in the district nursing team but it’s still important to find out about the set-up at the PCT you are applying to. In fact, you may want to contact your local team to arrange an informal visit. Also explore the other community services you might work with in the role, such as community groups and drug and alcohol services.

For applications and interviews, have your reasons for wishing to convert to community nursing clear in your mind. As you’re considering a change in environment, an employer may ask you why you don’t want to work in the acute sector.

Try to be positive. If at first you’re not successful, treat the experience as a learning exercise. Get as much feedback as you can. Then you can start to work on those areas that need improvement. The switch might not take place overnight but with the right preparation, and the right connections, you can make the transition a success.

Run by the Careers Advice Service and sponsored by NHS Careers and Skills for Health, the Health Learning and Skills Advice Line provides careers information, advice and guidance to support people working in healthcare. The friendly, trained career coaches can also give youconstructive feedback on your CV and help you with your skills assessment.

If you are interested in developing your career, call freephone 08000 150 850 from 8am to 10pm, seven days a week.

Additional information

Community Practitioners’ and Health Visitors’ Association

Community and District Nurses Association

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Unfortunately, the PCT I work for seems to have an in-built bias that makes it very hard for acute sector nurses to be successful in getting a job with them. It seems that they favour students who have worked for them or those who accept posts on the nurse bank first (and those accepting temporary contracts).

    Whilst I feel that this is actually to the trusts detriment, meaning they are missing out on all the experience acute sector nurses could bring to the trust, it's the way it seems to be. Therefore, if you can join the bank, and get a few shifts under you belt, it would certainly to to help! It's all good experience too so not all together wasted.

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