Community Nursing – A Day In The Life
When you think of a community nurse, what do you imagine? If you’re picturing a nurse knocking on patients’ doors with a suitcase full of paperwork and old-fashioned equipment, you’ll be surprised. The realities of modern-day community nursing are now, quite different.
Community nursing in the modern day
Today, community nurses play a vital role in supporting the needs of elderly, disabled or vulnerable patients who might not be able to visit a GP surgery, with technology playing a vital role.
Technology holds the promise of increased efficiency, less time spent travelling back to base, and more time spent with patients…technology has been embraced – nurses on the go, using tablets, videoconferencing, and electronic case management.
Whether connecting with colleagues, planning tasks, keeping up to date with clinical developments or educating patients, tech makes community nursing a more dynamic career than ever. So how does it all work in practice? Let’s take a day in the life of a community nurse.
7:30 – 8:30am: Daily planning
As a community nurse with various patients and tasks to see to throughout the day, organisation is essential. This means that each morning starts early, with community nurses using the first few hours of their day to plan ahead.
They might begin by checking their patient schedule on their phone, or by reading the latest news and nursing blogs. This keeps every RN up to date with developments in the healthcare field.
This is especially important for community nurses, who often specialise in supporting patients with chronic illnesses, mental health difficulties and end-of-life care. These areas promote additional alternative therapies proven to improve patients’ quality of life. As a community nurse is responsible for providing holistic care to all patients, keeping abreast of healthcare updates is a must.
8:30-9am: The morning briefing
The next part of the day’s preparation is the morning briefing and handover. Traditionally, this was carried out at a community nursing hub centre or GP practice, but increasingly this is being fulfilled remotely via apps such as Skype and FaceTime.
A nurse will often set aside 15-30 minutes before beginning their rounds to conduct a handover with the night team, finding out which patients they need to visit and any updates on their conditions and needs for the day.
More and more, technology is playing an essential role in these administrative elements of the job, with workforce planning tools such as eCommunity giving teams a way to easily distribute tasks and formulate work plans. Nurse, Sita Chitambo, told The Nursing Times that this tool, in particular, is helpful because:
You can see your daily capacity, and it RAG [red, amber, green] rates your priority 1s, priority 2s, priority 3s. So you can allocate staff according to that.
A nurse will find out their allocated visits and tasks, transfer the data onto their own phone calendar or notepad, and head out for the day’s work.
9am-12pm: Home visits
Community nursing practitioners will head out into the community and could be visiting schools to conduct general health checks such as hearing tests, or to homes of long-term patients who need support and in-home medical care.
No two days are the same, and this is a huge draw for the ambitious nurse who thrives on variety and challenge. In one visit, you could be helping someone with ulcerated wounds to change their dressings, the next you could be training a parent with administering diabetes injections for their child at home.
Throughout the day, community nursing practitioners have the rewarding job of seeing the impact of their work in every home. Whether it’s providing company and care to a patient who lives alone, or supporting a family in dealing with a new and high-pressure illness in the family, the essential support a community nurse provides makes a huge difference to countless lives throughout the community.
12pm-1pm: Break and re-evaluate
Mornings pass quickly as a community nurse, and before you know it, it’ll be time to take a break for lunch. As community nursing practitioners largely dictate their own schedules, the time and duration of this break will depend on their workload.
This is also opportunity to touch base with the wider team and check on everyone’s progress, or get support from the network of community nursing professionals. As community nurse Jessica Davenport told The Royal Marsden,
People sometimes think it can be daunting to work alone, but there is a fantastic amount of support available within the team for newly qualified nurses. We have the independence to manage our own caseloads with the benefit of continued support from senior staff who are always at the end of the phone if we are unsure about something or need advice.
1pm-3pm: More visits
After you’ve refreshed and checked your plan for the afternoon, it’s time to get back out in the field. Often, the day’s schedule is formed around the priorities of patient need, as well as their preferences regarding the time of visit. This means that many of the more pressing visits are conducted in the morning, leaving afternoons for more holistic, guidance-based work.
For example, you may be visiting a family to check up on how they’re dealing with the machinery they have to use at home to manage their condition. Here, you might find yourself training them on hygiene and equipment, or providing emotional support for family members in need of a break. Often, this involves referring carers to the latest technology and online support to assist them. The Queen’s Nursing Institute offers resources for supporting carers, which is a fundamental part of a community nursing professional’s role – alleviating the pressures on patients and their families to make life easier and more fulfilling for everyone in the home.
Alternatively, an occupational community nursing professional may be visiting businesses to check up on the health of their employees, or a homeless care community nurse might continue the rounds of local shelters where insecurely housed individuals gather. A community nurse in this capacity would provide any basic or emergency health care needed, as well as connect potential patients with services, whether websites or charities, that they could benefit from.
3-5pm: Running a local clinic
As well as conducting essential holistic care among community patients and groups, community nursing professionals often have the opportunity to get involved with local clinics and projects.
A community nurse with an interest in women’s health and family planning, for example, might spend a couple of hours a week running a clinic with a GP to support women and families in need of emergency advice or family planning support. Alternatively, a nurse with an interest in mental health might run a walk-in clinic alongside a specialist. This is a very fulfilling opportunity, offering the chance to share the latest information and technology, from reproductive and menstrual cycle apps to websites helping with managing mental health conditions.