Assistant practitioners (APs) are senior support workers and are also sometimes known as associate practitioners. They work at level four of the NHS Career Framework PDF 84KB (how to access PDF files) and in a range of health settings with nursing staff, allied health professionals such as physiotherapists and also health care scientists. This information relates to APs working primarily with nursing staff, but many APs work across a range of professional boundaries and may be supervised by several different registered professionals. You can find out about many of the different AP roles on the NHS Careers website.
The role of assistant practitioners is varied and dependant on the field in which they are employed. General responsibilities of an assistant practitioner may include the following and will take place under the direction and supervision of health care professionals:
- planning, delivering and evaluating delegated care within clear protocols
- delivering delegated health promotion initiatives and advice
- assist in identifying health needs of patients
- maintaining clear and accurate patient records
- a range of physiological measurements
- venepuncture and cannulation
- routine catheterisation
- bladder scanning.
Interventions practiced by the assistant practitioner will be achieved through additional focused training and education.
Most APs start their career as health care assistants (HCAs) but this is not always a requirement for the post. If you are working as an HCA and are seeking to become an AP where you work now, it is essential to find out from your employer if there are AP posts available before making the decision to commence training for the role. Basic IT skills and a good telephone manner are required, along with health and safety awareness, good verbal and written skills and often consolidation of practice at a senior HCA level.
Training to become an AP
Again this varies considerably across the UK at present. A foundation degree in health and social care or equivalent is a common route to the AP role. Other employers prefer a Higher National Certificate/Diploma (HNC/D) or equivalent in a health care related subject. For more information on foundation degree programmes visit the UCAS website or The Higher Education Academy. For more information on HNC / Scottish Credit and Qualification Framework levels seven or eight subjects visit the Scottish Qualifications Authority website. Training is usually undertaken on a part time basis whilst working.
The Open University is running a foundation degree course which is available until December 2011. You can find other health care related subjects on the Open University website. It is very important to clarify with your employer whether they will provide financial support towards the qualification.
Working hours and conditions
Assistant practitioners should ideally be employed on the Agenda for Change band four scale. A list of pay rates for this band is available on the RCN website.
Assistant practitioners work in a range of locations, including community settings (such as GP surgeries, clinics and visiting patients in their own homes) and hospitals (such as wards, accident and emergency departments). Depending on the role or area of nursing there may be a requirement to work flexibly and to work shifts on rotation.
Some posts may require a driving licence (a car may be available for use at work).
Career development options
Assistant practitioners may be given the opportunity to progress onto further training – such as secondment or entry onto a pre-registration nursing programme. Successful completion of pre-registration training provides the opportunity for movement up through the career framework and Agenda for Change pay scales.
The RCN has a range of support and online learning materials for HCAs and APs. Further information is available on the HCA section of the RCN website.
Looking for jobs
For listings of job vacancies currently available please visit the following NHS websites:
Sources of information
- News, events and campaigns information is available from RCN Direct, on 0845 772 6100 or from the RCN website (www.rcn.org.uk)
- NHS Health, Learning and Skills advice line. Telephone: 08000 150 850.
- National Leadership and Innovation Agency for Healthcare Workforce Development Unit. Telephone: 01443 233 472. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- NHS Education for Scotland and HCSW tooklit. Telephone: 0131 220 8666. Email: email@example.com
- Queen’s University, Belfast Telephone: 028 9097 2233/2061. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- University of Ulster Telephone: 08 700 400 700.
You can find all the latest information and guidance on particular nursing practice issues the RCN offers by visiting nursing practice issues.
Assistant practitioner scoping project (PDF 198.4KB): The scoping project reviews up-to-date information relating to the development of APs and maps the current UK wide support workforce. Analysing areas including the numbers of APs in the NHS and independent sectors and the demographics of this workforce; whilst also exploring the career pathways into, and beyond, the role of the AP