The Nursing Associate is a new support role in England that bridges the gap between healthcare support workers and registered nurses to deliver hands-on, person-centred care as part of the nursing team. Nursing associates are members of the nursing team, who have gained a Nursing Associate Foundation Degree awarded by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).

The NMC has developed and published standards of proficiency for nursing associates. These standards set out the knowledge, competencies, professional values and behaviours expected of a nursing associate at the point of registration. They will help employers to understand what nursing associates can contribute to patient and service-user care.

Standards of proficiency for nursing associates- download pdf

Nursing Associates work with people of all ages in a variety of settings in health and social care.

The role was introduced in response to the Shape of Caring Review (2015), to help build the capacity of the nursing workforce and the delivery of high-quality care.

The nursing associate role will be a vital part of the wider health and care team as:
  • The role will build the capacity of the nursing workforce and support the delivery of high-quality care as they are trained to work with people of all ages in a variety of settings.
  • The two year Foundation Degree programme will enable NA’s to perform more complex and significant tasks than a healthcare assistant, but not the same scope as a graduate registered nurse.
  • This in turn will enable nurses to focus on more complex clinical work
  • The role will increase the supply of nurses by providing a progression route into graduate-level nursing.
  • They can support the training and supervision of students and junior staff

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Training/Development

  • Prior to commencement of the nursing associate 2 year programme, applicants are required to complete the Care certificate and have evidence of level 2 functional skills/ GCSE in maths and English.
  • The two year Foundation Degree programme prepares trainee nursing associates to work with people of all ages and in a variety of settings in health and social care within the four fields of nursing – adult, paediatrics, mental health and learning disability.
  • Often they will attend 1 day a week in university and will be required to successfully complete exams and assignments over the 2 years.
  • Trainee nursing associates are required to undertake clinical placements in settings other than their primary place of employment.
  • Trainees must complete at least 2,300 programme hours which are divided to achieve an equal balance of theory and practice learning and must be offered protected learning time in which they are supported to learn.
  • Trainee nursing associates can be supervised by an NMC-registered nurse, midwife or nursing associate, or by any other registered health and social care professional. Supervisors will serve as role models for safe and effective practice and are expected to contribute to the record of achievement.
  • Following the changes in the NMC educational standards (2018) students/learners are now assigned a practice supervisor, practice assessor and an academic assessor. See link below: https://www.nmc.org.uk/standards-for-education-and-training/standards-framework-fornursing- and-midwifery-education/

Benefits to patients

Nursing Associates are making a great contribution to patient care and service delivery by:

  • Improved patient communication. 3 Assisting registered nurses with a greater range of care- giving responsibilities.
  • They are able to be more patient- centred and act as a patient advocate. 3 They are able to identify and escalate concerns with patients deteriorating health,
  • Display leadership qualities and support other trainees’ development and exchange skills, knowledge and good practice enhancing the quality of services.

Benefits to PCN’s

Employers have the opportunity to invest in the nursing associate role as part of wider workforce planning and skills mix transformation. An independent evaluation of the first two waves of the nursing associates programme revealed a number of benefits arising from the introduction of the role, including:

  • Improved service delivery and increased patient access as nursing associate develops new skills and competencies.
  • Nursing associates can take on additional skills (within their scope of practice) allowing practice nurses to spend time with more complex patients eg: cervical screening.
  • Nursing associates can support with the achievement of QOF indicators.
  • Improved staff retention through career progression.
  • Introducing the Nursing Associate role provides a recognised career pathway for bands 1-4 staff
  • Funding available via ARRS/apprenticeship route
  • The ability to ‘grow your own’ and develop your own nursing workforce