How in house staff development can grow your own district nurses

Bradford District Care NHS Foundation Trust has devised a range of courses that will develop the skills of all its community nursing workforce

Bradford District Care NHS Foundation Trust has devised a range of courses that will develop the skills of all its community nursing workforce

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When the Bradford District Care NHS Foundation Trust recognised a gap in its nursing workforce, it set about finding a solution by upskilling its workforce.

Course uptake

In 2015 there was a lapse in people taking up the district nursing course, says clinical lead for district nursing Carla Smith.

‘We knew we needed district nurses. Strong candidates were going to the district nurse interview and not being successful. We decided to support them as an organisation. We wanted to make people shine and instil some confidence in them. We wanted to let them develop and be able to articulate what transferable skills they had to apply to the course.’

From this, a senior staff nurse programme was developed to help band 5 nurses understand the qualities they would need for the district nursing course.

Staff levels

The trust created programmes to support staff development at all levels to ensure that its workforce is informed, supported and motivated.

The trust now has the following programmes:

  • Nursing apprenticeship course: a four-year degree for healthcare support workers (band 3) to gain a registered general nurse qualification with the Open University.
  • Staff nurse step-up: a 6-12 month programme for band 5 staff nurses in the community to gain experiences and skills as a team leader.
  • Senior staff nurse development: a 12-month programme for band 5 nurses who have taken the step-up course. This course helps them gain a more in-depth look at the band 6 role and the district nursing practitioner course. The trust will support an application from this course to the district nursing course.
  • District nursing specialist practitioner course: a 12-month course at Leeds Beckett University.
  • Band 6: community specialist practitioners qualification.
  • Band 7: development in a senior leadership role for band 6 to move to either a clinical lead role, teaching or gain a qualification in a long-term condition.

New starters

There is also a programme for new starters. ‘The new starter programme is about clinical skills and making sure new staff members are up to speed in terms of their clinical competencies. They might do a continence study day or a wound care study day.

‘If they came with the additional skills already, and as long as they have evidence, then they wouldn’t need to do the programme,’ Ms Smith says.

The route is mapped out, but that doesn’t mean staff are expected to follow it. Staff can ‘dip in and out’ says Ms Smith.

Staff on the courses are all supported by the trust, service manager, nursing development team, clinical lead and human resources.

Positive feedback

The trust has been getting positive feedback from the staff. ‘They don’t have to wait six or 12 months to get on a course,’ says Ms Smith. ‘For us it’s about growing our own – but it’s also about recruitment and retention.

‘We are starting to see that this is a selling point; something we can advertise. We want to be aspirational, innovative and drive the future workforce forward.’

How effective have the trust’s nursing courses and programmes been?

Nursing apprenticeship 

Gemma Dennison, healthcare support worker and nursing student

‘I’m on the apprenticeship course and it is already proving beneficial. I am able to identify the importance of evidence-based practice while learning about different aspects of health and social care. It makes me think more during my day-to-day duties and already my colleagues have seen an improvement in my ability when I'm with patients. I would encourage anyone to take this opportunity to achieve a nursing degree via the apprenticeship route; the support and help provided by the trust and The Open University is incredible.’


Senior staff nurse development

Rebecca Pinkstone, student district nurse

‘I undertook the one-year senior staff nurse programme in 2017-2018. It is a structured programme that involves leading and managing a team of health professionals. It allows you to develop evidence-based clinical skills and a deeper understanding of the roles and responsibilities of a leader.

'I gained management and leadership skills and I now know about HR policies and procedures, advanced safeguarding training and risk management. I had regular opportunities to reflect with peers and the course leader. Practical skills, such as interview techniques and writing applications were also arranged. I gained confidence in the professional behaviours of a leader.’

District nursing specialist practitioner course

Sandra Dunford, district nurse team leader

‘From doing the district nurse specialist practitioner qualification (DNSPQ) there is intentional learning about therapeutic relationships, developing knowledge of your local community, how to support staff, qualities of good leaders, management skills, nurse prescribing, advanced nurse diagnostics, research and academic skills. Then there are the personal developments that happen as a by-product of the DNSPQ and spending time with a mentor in practice, such as improved higher reasoning, emotional intelligence and resilience, networking skills, systems thinking, team development and conflict resolution. The list goes on.’

Band 7 developing to a senior leader

Angela Manson, community team leader

‘I took the one-year practice teacher course in 2017-2018. The course equipped me with the theories and knowledge that underpin learning styles and the ability to relate these to practice when mentoring specialist practitioner students. It also enhanced my critical reflection skills for myself and how I could promote these to students. Experienced district nurses have a responsibility to develop for the future challenges the NHS will face. The ten-year NHS Long Term Plan emphasises community partnerships, and district nurses can have a key role in these. There is a national shortage of specialist practitioner district nurses, therefore practice teachers are needed to ensure we can continue to provide high-quality mentorship to students studying for the DNSPQ.’  

New starter programme

Jennifer Waite, community staff nurse 

‘Being new to the community, this programme was relevant and beneficial for transferring theory to practice. It was also an excellent opportunity to meet other new starters for support and friendship, which has helped me gain confidence at the trust.

‘It was good to know that you had colleagues to speak and reflect with, and ask any questions you may have been unsure of. It was also good to meet people working in different areas in the trust.’



Further information

  • Contact Bradford District Care NHS Foundation Trust's clinical lead for district nursing, Carla Smith on carla.smith@bdct.nhs.uk or visit the trust’s website  

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