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An Out of Hours District Nurse has provided this description of the vital but sometimes overlooked work that they do:
'We do a large part of what the daytime District Nurses (DNs) do, but we ensure a continuity of service over the 24 hr period. In my team we cover from 4pm to 8am the next morning, 7 days a week. We are a mixture of qualified nurses and health care assistants, and in my area we provide service to potentially 400,000 people around Bradford.
'Early in the evening we have planned visits to patients requiring insulin injections or eyedrops following surgery, but the majority of our work is unplanned, responding to calls from patients and their families. We see palliative care patients for symptom relief, patients with blocked catheters, dressings that need replacing, or deteriorations in their conditions. Quite frequently we liaise with members of the multi-discipllinary team, to provide the correct level of care for our patients, all the way up to calling a 999 ambulance where required. We communicate with the DN also, to update re condition changes, and request equipment, etc.
'The job requires flexibility, quick responses, and the ability to think on your feet in an unsupported environment. We also have to be awake and alert at 3 in the morning, and we drive on average 50 miles per shift, usually more. I think the record for our service is 137 in one shift.
'We are sometimes a 'cinderella' service, but it allows nurses to fit in family commitments around work; however, everyone has their own story as to why they are working these shifts. We also have some nurses who work full time, but also work a few hours for us too.'