On the road with a Student District Nurse

Posted on Mon, 15/04/2019 by Joanne Graham

This week Gateshead nurse Joanne Graham talks about a typical day in her working life and the important role district nursing plays in the local health and care system

I’ve been a registered nurse for more than 15 years since I started my career over at the Newcastle RVI, where I worked in the ophthalmology department before moving into primary care.

But it’s district nursing where my where my real passion lies. That’s why I became a community nurse, working away from the hospital and visiting patients in their own homes. There’s a real drive by the NHS to treat more people in their own home where they can be more comfortable, don’t have to travel and can avoid the sometimes stressful experience of coming into hospital.

Hospital isn’t always the best place for people to be once they have received their treatment and community nurses have a big role to play in getting people back home as safely and quickly as possible.

Since working in the community I have become a senior community staff nurse, qualifying as a nurse prescriber and mentoring nursing students for more than 12 years. Now I’m a student again myself as I work towards the really specialised role of district nurse.

In March last year I was given the opportunity to complete the Specialist Practitioner Qualification in District Nursing, which is the recognised qualification to become a District Nurse. This course is for experienced nurses who aspire to lead and support clinical teams to manage complex care in the community.

But what is a district nurse?

Ultimately it is a registered nurse with a Specialist Practitioner qualification recorded nationally.

This highly complex and autonomous role requires advanced skills in things like negotiating, teaching and supporting patients and their family or carer. It’s also about working closely with other agencies like social services to make sure patients can be cared for safely in their own home.

District nurses have a vital role in preventing hospital admissions, facilitating early discharge, developing advanced clinical assessments, diagnosing and prescribing.

At the moment the service is rapidly changing because patients are living longer with increasingly complex conditions and often returning home while still dependent on nursing care.

The number of patients with two or more long-term or palliative conditions is increasing very dramatically because of the demographic changes in Britain and improvements in healthcare and medicine.

As a district nurse I’m responsible for coordinating and supporting care for these patients with complex requirements.

To be able to effectively manage these demands it is essential that the leader of the community team - the District nurse - has some additional training. The Specialist Practitioner Qualification in District Nursing (SPQDN) is an essential educational route to this type of nursing.

As developing leaders we’re taught a range of new and more advanced skills so that we have a higher level of clinical decision-making as well as team management, clinical leadership, risk assessment skills and caseload management.

The course is very intense but also very professionally rewarding. I was lucky enough to have been offered a place on the course and at times it’s felt like I’ve had to eat, sleep and breathe it. In the end though it will all be worth it because I feel so compassionate towards district nursing and supporting patients at home.

I also feel lucky to be part of a such a hardworking district nursing team in Gateshead - as I truly believe we provide an outstanding service.

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