Nursing associates

What you need to know one year after the first trainee nursing associates started out

What is a nursing associate (NA)?
It’s a new nursing support role in England, which will work alongside HCAs and registered nurses to focus on patient care. Already 2,000 trainee nursing associates (TNAs) have started their training.

How long does it take to train to become an NA?
Two years.

How is the training delivered?
Through a mix of lectures in university, placement days and practice days.

Will NAs work outside the NHS?
It’s expected they’ll train and work in a variety of care settings. The pilot programme included private care providers and charities as placement partners.

Is this another route to becoming a registered nurse?
It could be, but it’s also a stand-alone role. It’s expected NAs will be able to graduate as registered nurses probably after training part-time for two further years.

Will NAs be regulated by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC)?
Yes. The changes needed for the NMC to become the regulator should be complete in summer 2018, with the first NAs applying for registration in January 2019.

How much will NMC registration cost?
It’s not yet been confirmed but it looks like it will be similar to the fees for registered nurses (£120 a year).

What about standards for NAs?
The NMC will set standards of education, training, conduct and performance for NAs once they become the legal regulator for them.

Does the NMC approve the NA training programmes?
Not yet, although they’re developing programme requirements right now. Look out for a consultation due to take place in the spring of 2018.

What does the RCN say?
The RCN is absolutely clear that the nursing associate role is not a separate profession, but a new role within the nursing family that works under the delegation of the registered nurse (RN). The RCN has called for urgent guidance on the precise relationship between NAs and RNs in terms of delegation and accountability.

Where will the roles be advertised?
Look at individual trust websites and on the NHS Jobs website.

Is this a UK-wide role?
No, it’s a role only available in England.

So what’s happening elsewhere? 

There are different options available elsewhere in the UK.

In Wales, there are pre-registration degree routes which include routes for HCSWs.

NHS Education for Scotland has developed the health care support workers toolkit. 

The Northern Ireland Social Care Council regulates all social care assistants, including care assistants working in nursing homes.

Read more country-specific information.

'We're leading the way' 

Trainee nursing associate Georgina Portis says: 

"Some days I work as a health care support worker, other days are more focused on learning. Sometimes finding the balance can be difficult as unlike nursing students my role isn’t supernumerary and the job still needs to get done. I’ve had to pass assessed roleplays, essays, practical exams and presentations too.

"There are just two TNAs on my current placement but it’s usually just me as there are only nine of us in my trust. So while right now I feel a little isolated, I know there are thousands of us out there and we’re leading the way for many more TNAs in the future."

Find out more

Read more information on nursing associates on the Health Education England website.

Find out how being a TNA member of the RCN can benefit you and hear more about Georgina's experiences as a TNA so far on the RCN Bulletin webpages

Words by Sharon Palfrey

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