Professional Diploma in Tropical Nursing Short Course

The School's Professional Diploma in Tropical Nursing has over recent years proven an outstanding success in preparing nurses to work in low-income settings and make significant contributions to world health. It has now grown to 130 students a year, the vast majority of whom are self-funded, travelling from their workplaces across the UK and beyond to study one day a week at the School.

Distinctive features of the programme

The course is directed by the highly experienced and world-renowned nurse and field worker Dame Claire Bertschinger. The majority of the teaching staff have substantial experience working in resource-poor settings. 

The Professional Diploma in Tropical Nursing is recommended by Médecins Sans Frontières, Save the Children, Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO) the British Red Cross and many more international agencies.

Who should apply?

The programme is available to candidates with a degree who are currently registered as nurses or midwives.  It is recommended that they have two years post-registration experience by the start of the course applied for. Any student who does not meet the above minimum entry requirements but who has relevant professional experience may still be eligible for admission.

Study Topics 

The course opens a window to topics for study such as Public Health, Primary Health Care, Emergency Relief, Medical Anthropology, Sanitation Technology, Mental Health, Maternal and Child Health, Nutrition, Immunology, Parasitology, Conflict and Health, together with wide coverage of common Tropical Diseases. 

The Professional Diploma also incorporates a Laboratory Course, conducted in the Medical Parasitology Laboratory at the School, for two hours every Wednesday afternoon. During this course the students learn to diagnose Malaria, Leprosy, Leishmaniasis, Filariasis and other parasitic diseases. Blood grouping, cross-matching and haemoglobin estimation are also taught.

Course objectives

Aims & Objectives

The aim of the programme - consistent with the School's mission to improve health worldwide - is to prepare nurses and midwives to work in tropical and resource-poor situations by developing knowledge and understanding of the causes, prevention and treatment of major tropical diseases and the cultural, structural and organisational aspects of working in tropical and resource-poor situations.

By the end of the programme, students will be able to:

  • Understand and evaluate key issues affecting primary health care in developing countries
  • Aim to be able to maximize care in practice with minimum resources
  • Demonstrate the importance of promoting health through prevention rather than cure.

View course specification

Learning outcomes

  • Demonstrate capability to plan, implement and evaluate primary care interventions in tropical and resource poor contexts.
  • Development of a nuanced understanding of the issues involved in caring for people of differing cultural, religious and ethnic backgrounds
  • Application and understanding of laboratory methods available at local and district level clinics in resource poor countries, for the diagnosis of infectious diseases and other medical conditions, and for managing patient care based on analysis of the laboratory results
  • Develop effective cross cultural communication skills in challenging situations and around sensitive topics such as mother and child health issues.
  • Management of major tropical diseases and other complex nursing care for example diarrhoea and vomiting outbreaks in a resource poor setting
  • Develop increased resilience and the ability to manage and improvise provision of care in resource poor or complex emergency settings
  • Develop skills and approach to lifelong learning and continuing professional development that is grounded in current research

Learning, teaching and assessment methods

The programme is taught chiefly through lectures and laboratory practicals. Students are expected to learn through both directed and self-directed study. Assessment is through a laboratory exam, a multiple choice exam and an academic research based essay, which offers an opportunity to study a single topic in depth and use critical reading and writing skills. Candidates must pass all three components.


Successful candidates will be awarded the 'Professional Diploma in Tropical Nursing'.

Mode of Study and Learning Time

The Professional Diploma in Tropical Nursing is taught face-to-face at the School's main building in Central London, and is taken on a part-time basis only. Students study for one full day each week, Wednesdays, from 9:00 - 18:00 for 19 weeks.

The programme runs twice a year, so may be taken either from approximately mid- September until the end of January, or from approximately mid-March until the end of July. It comprises a total of 320 notional learning hours, based on a mix of contact teaching time, directed study, and self-directed study time plus assessment. It is generally expected that students will spend on average 17 hours a week on study, including face-to-face sessions and private study. During the course of the programme, each week will typically include 9 hours of contact time within the School and 8 hours of self-directed study.


Alumni survey results

100% of students would recommend the Professional Diploma in Tropical Nursing course according to the DTN alumni survey results .

Over 90% of students said that the course exceeded their expectations.

Comments by Course Participants

Aimin Liu from China, she is currently a Lecturer at the Nursing school, Kunming Medical University.

'I chose to study the Diploma in Tropical Nursing because I'm interested in public health and nursing. This course joins up my knowledge of both on nursing and public health problems. The biggest challenge I faced was the Language aspect - especially in essay writing but Claire Bertschinger, the course director gave me the guidance and courage to overcome this. I was offered a job at the nursing school; I feel the Diploma helped me achieve this. My classmates are still contact with each other; they are just like a window open to me. I always gain courage and inspiration from them. In the future I would like do more research in nursing and to come back and study a PhD at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.'

Libin Ali Saleebaan, a midwife at Kings College Hospital in London, went to Somalia to teach midwives in a maternity hospital, having completed her Diploma in Tropical Nursing at the School. 

'When I previously worked in Uganda, I was shocked by the impact of malaria in pregnancy and high rates of HIV. The Diploma course enabled us to think outside the box, work in difficult conditions and be prepared for emergencies. In Somalia, midwives have to deal with everything from counseling rape victims to administering antivirals.  The group I worked with were amazing and I look forward to returning this year'.

How to apply



Entry Criteria

The programme is open to candidates with a degree who are currently registered as nurses or midwives.  It is recommended that they have two years post-registration experience by the start of the course applied for. 

Any prospective student who does not meet the above minimum entry requirements but who has relevant professional experience may still be eligible for admission. 

Candidates must be computer literate and have a good standard of written and spoken English and of English comprehension. The School may ask the applicant to provide evidence of a satisfactory standard of English. The School has approved certain English tests.

Places are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. Applicants are advised to apply as early as possible, as the course is heavily oversubscribed.


The student is responsible for obtaining any visa or other permissions to attend the course, and is encouraged to start the application process as early as possible as obtaining a visa for the UK can sometimes take a long time. The Short Courses team, in the Registry, can provide supporting documentation if requested.

Accommodation and meals

A list of hotels and other accommodation located in the vicinity of the School can be supplied on request to the Registry. Lunch can be purchased from the School's Refectory in the Keppel Street building or the cafe on the Tavistock Place building. Evening meals are not catered for at the School, but there is a large choice of restaurants, cafes and shops nearby.

Please note:

  • If you have been offered a place on the course you will not be able to register without bringing formal ID (Passport) and without having obtained the correct visa.
  • It is essential that you read the current visa requirements for short course students.
  • The School may cancel courses two weeks before the first day of the course if numbers prove insufficient.  In those circumstances, course fees will be refunded.
  • The School cannot accept responsibility for accommodation, travel and other losses incurred as a result of the course being cancelled.
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