What is a community nurse and how to become one

Community nursing is about providing care to people outside of hospitals. You deliver essential clinical support to people in their homes and other local settings such as GP surgeries. Working as a community nurse means you get to help people maintain their independence and manage long-term conditions, as well as prevent unnecessary hospital admissions.

These days, the spotlight is shining more than ever before on those who care for people in the community. So, there’s never been a better time to become a community nurse – a role where you’ll be actively supporting people to live independently outside of hospital.

What is a community nurse?

A community nurse is a fully qualified specialist nurse who supports individuals and their families. It’s a mobile role where you visit people in their own homes and support them in accessing their local community. As a community nurse, you work flexibly. That’s because daily visits can change at a moment’s notice if you need to respond to an acute crisis somewhere on your patch.

Community nurses take on many important roles within communities, such as:

  • Children’s nurses
  • Community matrons
  • Continuing healthcare nurses
  • District nurses
  • Executive nurses
  • Family partnership nurses
  • Frailty nurses
  • General practice nurses
  • Health visitors
  • Homeless health nurses
  • Hospice nurses
  • Hospital avoidance nurses
  • Learning disability nurses
  • Mental health nurses
  • Neurology nurses
  • Nurse educators
  • Occupational health nurses
  • Palliative care nurses
  • Prison outreach nurses
  • Public health nurses
  • Respiratory and heart failure nurses
  • Tissue viability nurses

What’s the role of a community nurse?

There’s nothing routine about this role. As a community nurse, you’ll have a variety of responsibilities, and although you’re still part of a wider team, you’ll be working more independently than many hospital nurses. At its heart, this job is about delivering an excellent clinical service to help improve the health and wellbeing of people in their local community.

What does a community nurse do?

The most important thing is that you’ll make a real difference to people’s lives, developing long-term relationships with those you provide care for. You’ll be supporting people with acute, complex, and end of life needs and many of those that you work with will be elderly or living with a disability.

You may also find yourself helping to rehabilitate people who have recently left hospital, a crucial role as it assists the hospital discharge process. But, unlike working on a hospital ward where patients typically come and go, you’ll get to know those you care for – and their families – well and become an essential part of their support network. There may also be occasions where you visit people on a one-off basis, perhaps to support another care team who are short-staffed.

What skills does a community nurse need?

You’ll need a wide range of clinical and interpersonal skills to be successful in the role. These include examining and assessing people, developing good relationships, working independently, and knowing when to flag issues and concerns with other team members.

Typical clinical skills of a community nurse can include:

  • Compression
  • Continence care
  • Drains
  • Insulin administration
  • IV therapy
  • Leg ulcer management
  • Male, female, and suprapubic catheterisation
  • Medication administration/management
  • Nephrostomy care
  • Palliative/end-of-life care
  • PICC/chemo disconnect
  • Physical examinations
  • Pressure ulcer prevention
  • Symptom control
  • Syringe driver T34 pump
  • Teaching self-care
  • Venepuncture
  • Wound management/dressing

In many cases, you’ll need to have access to a vehicle and a full driving licence.

What is the difference between a district nurse and a community nurse?

In many cases, these names may be used interchangeably. For example, some Trusts recruit community nurses, others district nurses but these roles may, in fact, be very similar. So, if you’re job hunting, it’s worth looking out for both district and community nursing roles.

On its website, NICE also talks about ‘community/district nurses’ and ‘community nursing as encompassing a diverse range of nurses and support workers who work in the community, including district nurses…’

Where do community nurses work?

As a community (or district) nurse, you’ll work in your locality, not in a hospital. So, you’ll typically see people in their homes, in GP surgeries, and in residential care settings. In some cases, you’ll be involved in outreach work to support people without a permanent home.

Although you may work independently on a day-to-day basis, you’ll also be part of a wider multidisciplinary team of other healthcare professionals – people whose work you’re well placed to help coordinate.

Why become a community nurse?

In this role, you’ll often be central to supporting the informal care provided by family and friends. This means you’ll get to know the people you care for and their families well. Many community nurses love this kind of personalised care and the challenge and excitement of not knowing exactly what each day holds.

Every day will be different; you’ll be working with people with various needs and in diverse settings. Community nursing demands initiative, and you’ll be called upon to think for yourself and find creative ways to support people who don’t have easy access to hospital facilities. Some people will rely on your regular visits to manage their condition, and you’ll be an essential part of helping them retain their independence.

How do I become a community nurse?

Community nursing offers a rewarding career path. Right now, according to NHS England, as many as 86,000 nurses work in the community.

To become a community nurse, you’ll need to:

  • Be a registered adult, child, mental health, or learning disability nurse
  • Have experience with certain aspects of community work such as catheters and wound care
  • For certain roles, degree-level training as a specialist district nurse practitioner or the completion of a postgraduate certificate or master’s degree is needed

These specialist practitioner programmes cover the theory and practice of district nursing focusing on four areas:

  • Clinical nursing practice
  • Care and programme management
  • Clinical practice development
  • Clinical practice leadership

Community nursing roles with Thornbury Nursing

Discover the community nursing roles available across England and Wales with Thornbury Nursing Services.

As an agency community nurse working with us, you’ll earn higher rates of pay and have an opportunity to expand your skill set, building your career through new roles. You’ll also have the advantage of flexible hours and being able to work in a wide range of settings.

Register with Thornbury Nursing Services


NHS England. See: https://www.england.nhs.uk/nursingmidwifery/delivering-the-nhs-ltp/community-nursing/

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