What is community nursing? And what is a community nurse? As a community nurse, your job is to provide care to allow patients to stay living in their community and ensure they do not have to go into hospital unnecessarily.  They  carry out a huge range of work, often operating alone or in small teams.  Community nurses play a vital role in many different parts of the community as:  

  • GP nurses
  • health visitors
  • community mental health nurses
  • community children’s nurses
  • learning disability nurses
  • homeless health nurses
  • occupational health nurses
  • public health nurses
  • executive nurses
  • nurse educators
  • care home nurses

what do community nurse jobs involve?

Community nurse jobs are incredibly varied.  An occupational health nurse is clearly not going to be doing the same work as a community mental health nurse.  But community nurses often provide advice and carry out procedures – including giving medicines (medication support), taking blood, changing dressings (wound management), as well as catheter and continence care.  Community nurses also provide end of life care and rehabilitation support.  

District nurses visit patients at home to give chemotherapy to those with cancer, ensure diabetics get regular doses of insulin and help the dying end their days as painlessly as possible.

It’s not just routine either.  A community nurse is a specialist practitioner who can contribute to continuous improvement management activities that directly improve primary care services, and participate in innovative projects that enhance a patient’s life.  

what’s the difference between a district nurse and a community nurse?

Often these two terms are used interchangeably.  But technically speaking, district nurses are a subset of community nurses.

A district nurse is a registered general nurse who manages care within the community.  Specially trained in community healthcare, these nurses play a pivotal role in the modern-day primary healthcare team and are charged with leading teams of community nurses and support workers.

District nurses give housebound patients the best care possible in their own homes – surrounded by the things that they know and love, on their own terms – providing intensive personalised care to patients with complex long-term conditions so that they can stay safe and healthy in their chosen environment.  Many people would be unable to live at home without the support that they get from community nurses and their teams. They assess people to see how to provide nursing care that allows people not only to remain in their own homes but also to maintain their independence.  

District nurses are senior nurses.  They manage teams of community nurses and support workers to provide wound care, train carers to administer eye drops if individuals cannot do it themselves, support catheter and continence care, and administer complex medication within a patient’s home as well as immunisations. 

As well as treatment, a district nurse can offer advice and support with health concerns and refer to other organisations.  District Nurses can specialise in different areas such as palliative care.  They may be trained to assess patient’s needs for the provision of equipment, such as mobility and independent living aids, medical equipment such as specialist beds and mattresses, as well as guidance in applying for grants and welfare benefits.

They can visit patients several times a day if necessary.  They work with GPs to prevent unnecessary or avoidable hospital admissions, relieving pressure on the NHS.  

District nurses are able to prescribe medication to patients in a similar way to GPs, depending on individual qualifications.

It’s a lot of responsibility.  District nurses are directly involved in shaping self-care for patients with long term conditions and health promotion requirements.  They must carry out personal risk assessments every time they enter a new home. And every time a district nurse leaves a home, they’ll need to determine whether it is safe to leave their patient alone or with their carers.

where do community nurses work?

It all depends on the sort of community nurse you are: 

  • Some community nurse jobs involve the delivery of care in people’s homes – others involve the provision of vital outreach work for people who may not have a secure home.  
  • General Practice Nurses work in GP surgeries as part of a primary healthcare team.  Health visitors see families via home visits, at clinics, at their GP practice and in children’s centres.  
  • Specialist mental health nurses can work in hospital or in the community.  
  • Child nursing involves everything from nursing a sick new-born to an adolescent road accident victim.  Children and their families can find it easier to receive treatment at home, rather than attending hospital, for certain conditions. 
  • Community nurses can be based in schools, working with pupils, teachers and parents to promote good health and wellbeing in school age children and young people.  
  • Occupational health nurses are registered nurses who specialise in caring for the health and wellbeing of people at work.  
  • Nurse educators teach community nursing, both in university and on placements, visiting students in practice.  
  • And care home nurses work in residential, care or nursing homes.

why become a community nurse?

Community nursing can be very rewarding – as a district nurse, for instance, you may find yourself seeing patients that may not talk to anyone else all day. It can be a real privilege to work with patients in their own space.

There’s plenty of autonomy and the job offers a great deal of freedom.  As a community nurse, you often have to problem solve and be self-reliant.  It’s not a controlled, contained environment like a hospital.  You aren’t handing over to another nurse once your shift finishes.  Many community nurses don’t have easy access to other health professionals – often there’s no one else there to consult with in the moment and you may need to make your own judgement calls!  

what sort of person makes a good community nurse?

Obviously, you need to care about your patients’ wellbeing.  The best community nurses are also passionate, motivated team players who want to excel in delivering exceptional holistic healthcare to a diverse patient group alongside a range of community experts and team leads.  

While many roles in community nursing will involve working alone – rather than being part of an extended team – you will need to be a good collaborator and able to work closely with other agencies such as out-of-hours and social care services.  

In some parts of the country, community nurses also operate a rapid response service to assess patients quickly and prevent unnecessary hospital admissions.  Either way, you’ll need first-rate decision-making skills, be capable of working alone, and be able to communicate well on a one to one basis.  You also need to be able to communicate effectively with a patient, to listen to them, and to pick up on verbal and non-verbal cues from the patient.  

community nurse salary.

Community nurse salaries within the NHS can range from £22,000 to £30,000, although the typical community nurse salary is about £25,500. This can vary by specialism:

  • A learning disability nurse with less than a year’s experience might earn £24,200 a year.  
  • A school nurse (a role in band 6 of the NHS Agenda for Change pay scale) could earn almost £37,300 a year once they have 8 years’ experience
  • Mental health nurses in the NHS will normally start on band 5 (so with 3 years’ experience, they’d be on about £26,200 a year with pay topping out at £30,100 with at least 7 years’ experience) but with further experience, training, and qualifications, they can apply for more senior posts.  
  • Primary mental health workers working in child and adolescent mental health services, will typically be at band 6 and 7
  • District nurses are also in Band 6, meaning that a starting salary, with less than one year’s experience, is approximately £30,400, although with three years’ experience that will increase to over £32,500.  With six years’ experience, salaries rise to almost £33,600 with a further 3.5% increase after an additional year – so a district nurse could earn up to £34,782 a year
  • while a health visitor normally starts in band 6, there’s opportunity to move up the bands with more experience.  

Working with an agency like Randstad can provide you with more opportunities to gain broad experience, a higher salary and better work-life balance.

If you’re ready for change or looking for something new, search our latest vacancies here.

community nursing and district nurse vacancies.

Being a nurse is one of the most rewarding professions out there – as nurses you truly make a positive difference to people’s lives. However, we also know that being a nurse can be stressful. That’s why we’ve spoken to real-life nurses, such as nurse and Love Island star Rachel Fenton, to get her advice on how to manage stress and mental wellbeing while on shift: