Nursing Associates – An Introduction

The current number of unfilled advertised nursing and midwifery posts in England is at a record high of more than 34,000. There are around 7,000 individuals currently training to become nursing associates across 35 pilot sites, enabling the training to be uniquely tailored to the needs of local healthcare practices.

What are nursing associates?

This new role is being introduced across social care settings in England, after a gap was identified in care provision between the roles of health care assistants and registered nurses in the Shape of Caring Review 2015.

As well as fulfilling an important role in the nursing system and alleviating the load on health care assistants and nurses themselves, the new position is being introduced as a stepping stone for those looking to progress to become a registered nurse in their own right.

As The Guardian explains:

Training is principally on-the-job: trainees typically spend a day a week at a participating university, but the bulk of the course involves working under supervision in a variety of care settings. This ensures that those from hospital backgrounds get experience of community healthcare and vice versa.

Entry requirements for nursing associate training

Many of the current trainee nursing associates have not come from an educational background – the initial cohort of 2,000 trainees were mainly existing health practitioners with experience in the hospital setting, but no university qualifications.

Those who wish to train for a nursing associate job must have a minimum of a GCSE grade 9 to 4 (A to C) in maths and English, or key skills level 2 in each. Some may also have further qualifications such as health and social care diplomas or foundation degrees.

Up to half of qualified nursing associates are expected to progress to undertake a further two years of workplace-based training in order to become a registered nurse.

What will nursing associates do?

Nursing associates are being introduced not as a replacement or substitute for nurses, but as a support for the existing workforce. The idea behind this is that having more highly skilled and educated nursing associates will allow graduate nurses to focus on the tasks they are uniquely positioned to do.

A few of the core roles of nursing associates will include:

  • Recognising changes in a patients’ capacity, which could affect their ability to continue to make sound decisions about their own care and to give or withhold consent.
  • Recognising the signs of mental deterioration in relation or distress.
  • Undertaking basic health monitoring.
  • Supporting and coaching nursing associate students and healthcare assistants, appraising the quality of their care.
  • Recognising inadequate staffing dynamics.

The NMC says;

“Nursing associates will deliver care, freeing up registered nurses to spend more time using their skills and knowledge to focus on complex clinical duties and take a lead in decisions on the management of patient care.”

Some of the key areas in which nursing associates will factor is recognising changes in patients’ individual needs, and working in communities to support the rising level of patients with mental health conditions and chronic health problems such as diabetes.

Regulation of nursing associates

Like nurses, nursing associates will be regulated by the NMC. Nursing associates will have to pay the same fee as registered nurses to the NMC, and follow standards including;

  • Being an accountable professional.
  • Promoting health and preventing ill health.
  • Providing and monitoring care.
  • Working in teams.
  • Improving safety and quality of care.
  • Contributing to integrated care.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council explains that, although they will develop standards of what nursing associates need to know and be able to do in order to join their register, individual employers will determine how nursing associates are deployed in specific health and care contexts.

The impact of nursing associates on healthcare settings

There have been several controversial aspects of the proposed role of nursing associates. For example, nurses may be required to administer drugs, which has raised concerns about what qualifies a healthcare practitioner to do so.

However, as Nursing in Practice points out, the primary assessment of a patient will be conducted by a registered nurse, with the nursing associate simply monitoring and reassessing patients, ensuring that the care plan established by the nurse is followed. Nursing associates will also be trained to recognise signs of adverse reactions to medications, such as drug allergies or sensitivities.

Healthcare employers and professionals predict that the role of the nursing associate will help dramatically in creating a more flexible workforce that is able to respond to changes in the ways, and the location, in which care is delivered, from hospitals to home visits. This will also allow nurses to spend more time on more complex, involved tasks, and help to address the deficit in nurses.

If you’re interested in finding out more about careers in nursing, contact us today on 03000 243 333.