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​Catherine Pontifex

​District nursing - growing the workforce from within Guy's and St Thomas'

It’s well known that there is a shortage of qualified district nurses nationally. To become a qualified a district nurse one has to spend a dedicated year on a degree or masters programme studying 50% theory interspersed with 50% practice under the supervision and care of a registered specialist practice teacher. The year is tough but the qualification is valuable and the skills transferable to pretty much any area of the NHS.

Guy’s and St Thomas’ are training district nursing students every year. There are currently five students undergoing this programme who are due to qualify in August. This year the students are joining the GPs at St Thomas’ Urgent Care Centre to learn the skills of history taking and physical assessment. This is the first time that their district nursing students will be trained by GPs as part of the course.


Catherine Pontifex is a staff nurse undertaking the programme. She says: “After working on an acute medical ward for 18 years I became employed as a community staff nurse with very little understanding of the skills and expertise that this job involved.

"I came to appreciate the role of the district nurse who is primarily responsible for advocating and facilitating the best quality of life for isolated, housebound patients in the last years of their lives and it was this that I wanted to more fully realise. 

“Consequently I applied and was accepted to do the District Nursing 
course which for me includes modules in advanced clinical assessment, diabetes, prescribing, palliative care and tissue viability as well as focusing on what is involved in case load management, leadership and management, liaising with the multi-disciplinary team and developing clinical expertise. 


“Having the time on the course to practise, reflect and research more deeply into what this involves has already given me the prospect of being able to make more of a significant difference in patients’ lives.”

The five students will be fully operational as qualified district nurses in August.

To find out more about the development of district nurses please contact Anita Macro, Deputy Head of Nursing, Adult Community Services, Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust on 020 3049 4734 or at