The QNI is the oldest professional nursing organisation in the UK and believed to be the oldest nursing charity in the world*.

The charity was originally founded to organise the training of District Nurses and this was its core function until the 1960s, in a model that was copied across the world. It was instrumental in developing a comprehensive, highly-skilled service to meet the healthcare needs of millions of people every year and is one of the pillars of the National Health Service.

The charity traces its origins to 1887 with the grant of £70,000 by Queen Victoria from the Women’s Jubilee Fund. A Royal Charter in 1889 named it Queen Victoria’s Jubilee Institute for Nurses (QVJIN) and gave it the objectives of providing the ‘training, support, maintenance and supply’ of nurses for the sick poor, as well as establishing training homes and branches.

District nursing began in England in 1859 when William Rathbone, the Liverpool philanthropist, employed Mary Robinson to nurse his wife, Lucretia Wainwright Gair, at home during her final illness. After Lucretia’s death, he asked Mary Robinson to deliver nursing care to the poor of the city in their own homes. Impressed by the positive results, Rathbone worked with Florence Nightingale to develop the new service more widely. He helped create a nursing school in Liverpool to train nurses for the 18 districts of the city – and so organised ‘district nursing’ began. Manchester, London and other cities followed suit.

The founding of the Jubilee Institute was the next step in coordinating national standards for District Nurse training. Nurses who qualified from the Institute were known as Queen’s Nurses.


From 1889 until 1968, the Queen’s Nurse title was a qualification, when these were awarded by the QNI (or QIDN as it was then). It was the qualification given to those who had completed the QNI’s training course for District Nurses. The nurses who got the qualification became Queen’s Nurses, entered on the QN roll and given a QN badge.

Early Queen’s Nurses received a minimum of a year’s training at an approved hospital or infirmary; to train as a District Nurse took at least six months and included the nursing of mothers and infants after childbirth. Nurses in country districts were required to have three months training in midwifery. Nurses in large towns were to reside in homes, under the charge of a trained superintendent; nursing of patients was to be carried out under direction of medical practitioners, and services were confined to the poor, ‘while not excluding cases of such patients as are able to make some small contribution.’


In 1968 the QNI stopped offering the qualification, and from that time onwards, education for District Nurses was delivered within the NHS and higher education.

2007 to present

In 2007, after a gap of 40 years, the QNI decided to bring the QN title back but in a completely different form. Now people apply to be a QN, providing evidence of their experience and skills, supported by patient and colleague references. Any nurse with at least five years’ experience working in the community can apply, not just District Nurses. The QN title isn’t an award for past service or a qualification, it is a formal recognition that you are part of a professional network of nurses committed to delivering and leading outstanding care in the community.


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