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Non-hospital nursing jobs: 6 roles to consider

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You’ve enjoyed a successful nursing career on the wards for years – but now it’s time to move on. Whether you’re looking to escape the night shift, want the opportunity to build better relationships with patients, or just need a change of scene, here are six non-hospital nursing roles worth considering.

District nurse

If the idea of working at different locations appeals, a job as a district nurse could be for you. Based at a health centre, district nurses work as part of a community healthcare team and visit patients in their own homes, GP surgeries and residential care homes. Clients typically include older people with health issues, those with terminal illnesses, and the disabled. You may be expected to work evenings and weekends, shifts are usually between 8am and 8pm, and you will be on-call on a rota-system.

You will typically need between one and two years’ professional experience as a qualified adult nurse to train to become a district nurse. District nurse training – known as specialist practitioner programmes – are at degree level. It usually takes a year (32 weeks) full time to complete and is 50% theory and 50% practice. Courses are also available at postgraduate certificate and Masters-level.

Practice nurse

As a practice nurse, you would be an independent practitioner but also part of a team, working alongside doctors and pharmacists. In larger practices, you may work as one of several nurses sharing duties and responsibilities. The role is highly varied, although there are opportunities to specialise (in diabetes care, asthma clinics, etc.,). Unlike hospitals, there are no night shifts, and because many surgeries open from 7am to 7pm, there may be the opportunity for part-time work.

You must be a qualified and registered nurse and will need to undertake further training and education (to do smears and baby vaccinations etc.,) to work in general practice. Some employers prefer you to have completed a community specialist practitioner programme, specialising in general practice nursing.

Occupational health nurse                            

Many large organisations, including hospitals, local authorities, airlines and retail chains, employ occupational health nurses. They may work as independent practitioners or as part of an occupational health service team, usually attached to a HR department. Typical duties include carrying out pre-employment medicals, assessing and treating employees who have been injured or become ill at work, promoting health education, and giving sickness absence advice.

Employers usually expect candidates to have between one and two years’ professional experience as a qualified nurse. Experience of working in accident and emergency and/or practice nursing and undertaking a role as an RCN safety representative may prove helpful.

Health visitor

If you like the idea of working in the community and enjoy helping parents and children, the role of health visitor could be ideal. Health visitors spend most of their day visiting people in their homes, especially new mothers and babies. Typical duties include new birth visits, offering advice on feeding, weaning and dental health, physical and developmental checks, and providing support on specific health issues, such as post-natal depression.

To work as a health visitor you will need to be a qualified midwife or nurse (any branch) and complete the Specialist Community Public Health Nursing Health Visiting (SCPHN/HV) programme. The qualification is studied at degree level, or postgraduate level if you already have a degree.

School nurses

School nurses can be employed by the local health authority, community NHS providers or by a school directly. Typical duties of the role include carrying out developmental screening, undertaking health interviews, administering immunisation programmes and providing health and sex education.

Some employers may require candidates to have experience as a registered nurse, but it should be possible to enter school nursing straight from initial registration. If you’re newly qualified, it’s a good idea to get experience by work shadowing a school nurse. Experience of working with children or in the community may help. Once in the role, most school nurses will work towards the School Nursing/Specialist Community Public Health Nurse qualification, offered at degree and masters level, at a variety of universities across the UK.

Prison nurses

Prison nurses are employed either directly by the prison service or by the NHS. The primary care role can involve working on everything from health promotion, vaccination and sexual health clinics, to helping those who have chronic diseases, such as heart disease or diabetes. While prison nursing is comparable to practice nursing, the high proportion of patients with substance misuse and mental health problems can make the role more challenging.

You need to be a qualified and registered nurse, preferably in adult or mental health, to work as a prison nurse. Once in the role, you can undertake training on prison-related aspects of the work, such as healthcare manager leadership training, vocational qualifications in custodial healthcare and transcultural healthcare practice training, in addition to normal continuing professional development (CPD) activities.


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