What is a Nursing Associate

The nursing associate is a new registered role in England that bridges the gap between health and care assistants and registered nurses. Nursing associates are new members of the care team, who are trained to foundation degree level. Nursing associates work with people of all ages in a variety of settings in health and social care. They deliver hands-on, person-centred care as a vital part of a wider health or care team.

The role is a vital part of the nursing team and aims to

  • 1. support registered nurses, freeing them up to focus on more complex clinical work
  • 2. provide career progression opportunities for health and care assistants
  • 3. increase the supply of nurses over time by providing an additional route into nursing.

The first training programmes started in 2017 and over 1,500 nursing associates were registered with the NMC (Nursing and Midwifery Council) by January 2020.

Why do we need Nursing Associates?

The nursing associate role was introduced in response to the Shape of Caring Review (Health Education England, 2015), which aimed to ensure that nurses and care assistants receive consistent, high-quality education and training that supports high quality care. This review identified three specific problems which led to the recommendation for a new role, namely:

  • 1. A lack of training and development opportunities for care assistants, who were providing over 60 per cent of hands-on care.
  • 2. An ageing population with more complex needs, requiring nurses to delegate fundamental aspects of care so they can focus on more complex tasks.
  • 3. The nursing shortage and need to widen access to the profession.

What training do they receive?

Training involves working towards a foundation degree, awarded by an NMC-approved provider. Typically taken over two years, the programme includes both academic and workbased learning. It prepares trainees to work with people of all ages and in a variety of settings in health and social care. Trainee nursing associates can either earn while they learn as part of an apprenticeship programme or go through a self-funded route. Nursing associates can go on to train as a registered nurse by doing a shortened nursing degree or nursing degree apprenticeship.

What can they do?

Nursing associates can work across a range of health and social care settings. They contribute to the planning, delivery, and evaluation of care as part of the nursing team.  The NMC has developed and published standards of proficiency for nursing associates. These standards provide a clear picture of what nursing associates know and can do when they join the register.

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