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District nurses go back in time; Nurses in the region have been celebrating 150 years of their profession. Health Reporter HELEN RAE explains.

Byline: HELEN RAE

SHOPPERS caught a rare glimpse of what it was like to be a nurse in the 1800s when they visited the Metrocentre as health staff celebrated a milestone in nursing care.

Nurses from NHS South of Tyne and Wear were at the shopping centre to mark the 150th anniversary of district nursing. They were dressed in uniforms worn by district nurses in the 1800s.

People were able to talk to them about how the role has evolved since it was introduced in 1859 and got to view some of the old equipment that was once used by the staff on their rounds.

Julie Goulden, clinical modernisation facilitator at NHS South of Tyne and Wear, took part in the event. She said: "This anniversary recognises the many years of dedicated care and support that have been provided by district nurses and it is fantastic to be able to talk to members of the public about the role.

"District nursing started as a service which tackled the public health and care needs of the most vulnerable and over the past 150 years the role has developed significantly." District nurses are a vital part of the community, visiting people in their own homes or in residential care homes, providing care for patients and supporting family members.

There are currently 99 qualified district nurses leading teams of community nurses and health care assistants in NHS South of Tyne and Wear. As well as providing direct patient care, they also have a teaching role, working with patients to enable them to care for themselves or with family members teaching them how to give care to their relatives. They can also prescribe medication for patients.

Patients might include those who are housebound, the elderly, the disabled and those who have recently been discharged from hospital.

The job plays an important role in the care of people at end of their life and they are the lead contact for patients that are terminally ill.

They work closely with support services such as Macmillan nurses, Marie Curie and social care to ensure patients maintain their quality of life for as long as possible and help them to die in their place of choice - normally their own home.

All the district nurses are experienced, have taken a degreelevel qualification and provide highly-skilled nursing care. They lead teams that include community staff nurses and health care assistants.

The work of district nurses is very diverse and can include wound care, supporting patients with diabetes, caring for people with complex longterm illness, catheter care, taking blood samples, administrating medicines and providing psychological support.

The profession began in 1859 when the Liverpool merchant and philanthropist William Rathbone employed a nurse, Mary Robinson, to nurse his wife at home.

Recognising the benefit of, and need for, trained nurses he established a training school and home for nurses attached to the Royal Infirmary in Liverpool in 1860.

The district nurses worked in districts made up of a cluster of parishes, hence the name district nurses. Their practice was supervised by lady superintendents drawn from wealthy families who were expected to cover the cost of the service and provide accommodation for the nurses.

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DRESSED UP - Gill Garrett in traditional nurse attire from 1880 to celebrate 150 years of district nursing
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Dec 7, 2009
Words:550
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