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31 Mar 2021

What is the difference between community and district nursing?

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Medical stethoscope.

What is the difference between community and district nursing?

In the modern-day, the title of Nurse may seem simple, but it is far from simple and spans many areas with numerous differences in skills and the care setting. Nurses do not just work in hospitals, but can also work in GP’s surgeries, outpatient facilities, nursing homes, community teams or district teams.

Community and district nurse are often used to describe the same role, however, there are minimal differences, and both titles should be considered when searching for work, as ultimately the title is given by the employer.

What is a district nurse?

A district nurse will be a registered general nurse, will perform their duties out in the community, usually away from the GP surgery, although occasionally in local health centres. They will be specially trained in community healthcare and require high levels of autonomy with very little support about key decisions to be made regarding patient care. They are often in charge of teams of community-based nurses and support workers.

There is no restriction on the age or type of patient that a district nurse may treat, suffering from a range of conditions, some may be recently discharged from hospital, physical disabilities or terminal conditions which make them unable to leave their home.

Their role involves providing care to housebound patients and may take place once or multiple times per day depending on the care required. The nurse will need to ensure thorough risk assessments are carried out on each visit to maintain the safety of themselves, the patient, and any other support workers who may be required to attend to support the treatment of the patient.

Their responsibilities include writing individual care plans to suit the needs of the patient, and their family or carer/s, wound management, medication support, rehabilitation assistance and catheter care. They should also identify and discuss any key healthcare needs with the patient and their families or carer/s, imparting their knowledge around various aspects of healthcare.

What is a community nurse?

Much like a district nurse, a community nurse performs their duties within patient homes or healthcare centres and is a key part of the local healthcare team. Their patients include elderly, disabled or vulnerable patients who cannot travel, and they will have also undertaken degree level training and nursing registration as a specialist practitioner.

A community nurse is responsible for performing many of the same duties as a district nurse, including basic care, providing key information to patients, their families and carer/s, as well as emergency support where required.

A common misconception of community nursing is often that it is easier than a hospital environment, however, a community-based nurse must have high levels of communication, autonomy, and decision-making skills without the support of other professionals who would be on hand in a hospital environment.

Is there a difference?

It's very difficult to see clear differences between the two roles and may even be down to the evolution of language, and the interchangeable way of describing areas of villages, towns and cities. In some areas, community nurses may work under the guidance of district nurses and vice versa, but generally, the two titles refer to the same role and should be considered as such when job-hunting.

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