The Queen’s Nursing Institute has published a new report on Pre-Registration Community Nursing Placements in England.

The report is based on evidence gathered through an online survey, part of a wider programme of work to highlight the community placement options available for pre-registration nursing students and the career opportunities that may follow.

Historically there has been an emphasis on learning in hospital settings, where pre-registration student nurses gain experience in generalist and specialist areas. However, with more and increasingly complex healthcare now being delivered in the community, it is essential that student nurses gain a wider range of experiences. The need to provide excellent community and primary care placements has therefore never been more important.

Student nurses highly value the experiences they gain whilst on clinical placements, and the registered nurse workforce have a duty of care to provide a good learning environment. Supporting student nurses on clinical placements encourages registered nurses to become role models for their students whilst providing and creating learning opportunities throughout.

The support provided on placement is frequently a deciding factor when newly qualified nurses are considering their career options and where to apply for their first post. There are enduring myths that newly qualified nurses must work in a hospital before they consider working in the community. This is not the case, and we know of many nurses who, after experiencing an inspiring placement as a student, go on to work in a community setting as a first destination.

Dr Agnes Fanning QN, the author of the report

Online Survey

The aim of the online survey was to gather evidence about the kinds of community placements pre-registration nursing students currently experience and what additional support they might need to gain the maximum benefit from them. The survey was open in the first half of 2021 and received almost 1350 responses.

As the survey was carried out during the pandemic, this inevitably had an effect on the experience of many students. However, 46% of respondents responded positively to the question of whether they would consider a community role on qualifying; a very encouraging figure given the current workforce needs in nearly all community specialisms.

The survey responses showed a huge variety of different community nursing placements, though most students had only experienced one or two community placements during their course, and 20% had not had the opportunity at the time of completing the survey (the survey was open to students at any point in their course).

The survey also gave respondents a range of options for the kind of additional support they would hope to see to make their placements more engaging and drive learning outcomes, listed in full in the report.


The survey presents a positive picture about the level of engagement of pre-registration nursing students with the community sector, and the high level of interest in the exciting and growing career opportunities that exist in the community.

We must challenge the myths that still exist about the need to work on a hospital ward first on qualifying, or the perceived hierarchy of hospital and community nursing. Community nursing is diverse, it is growing, and it is moving rapidly as new models of care emerge in integrated provider organisations.

Community placements have the potential to open up the possibilities to the next generation of nursing graduates, whatever their chosen route, providing them with flexible and dynamic career pathways, and supporting the national policy agenda around delivering high quality care closer to home.”

Dr Crystal Oldman CBE, the QNI’s Chief Executive

Attracting newly qualified nurses to the Community

To further understand what might attract students to consider a career in the community, survey respondents were asked what factors were most significant to them. Almost 74% stated nursing that supported individuals and families in their homes and communities as the main attraction, and continuity of care at 64%. Flexible working appealed to 71% and the diversity of roles, settings and career progression 64%. The opportunity to specialise was attractive to 60% and being able to work as an autonomous and independent practitioner was important to 54%.

The QNI report makes a number of recommendations, principally to the charity itself, to build on its work with pre-reg nursing students and newly qualified nurses. In addition there are challenges and opportunities for employers, educators and commissioners to increase the availability of high quality placements in the community, to support future workforce and population health needs.

To view the report, click here:  Pre-registration community nursing placements survey report 2021


Notes to Editors

The QNI has gathered a large and diverse range of information about working in the community for student nurses and newly qualified nurses. Visit: https://qni.org.uk/students/

The QNI programme has been guided by a student nurse project steering group composed of QNI staff, Queen’s Nurses, students and educators.

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