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Careers resource for the clinical support workforce

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Welcome to this resource which aims to help you to understand the development and career opportunities available for support workers across health and care. 

Support workers are a vital part of the multi professional team. Whether you would like to develop your knowledge and skills within a different setting or undertake a formal qualification to take on a role such as nursing associate, associate practitioner or registered nurse, there are many different opportunities to enable you to provide safe, compassionate care to people.

This section continues to be developed to recognise these different career routes and therefore please come back to visit it regularly as we add more personas.

Nursing associate



Name: Dave

Job title: Health Care Assistant 

Setting: Mental Health Inpatient Ward

Dave has been a Health Care Assistant working on various wards in a Mental Health NHS Trust for 6 years. He has been keen to develop his knowledge and skills and has spoken to the Ward Manager and the Practice Development team about this. He has attended in-house study days but has not had the opportunity to develop his skills more formally.  

Goals and Needs: He would like to develop his knowledge and skills to be able to better support service users and the nursing team. He feels he has a lot more to offer and has considered training to be a Nurse in the past.

How do you make this change

A nursing associate is a member of the nursing team who is trained to work with people of all ages and across all four fields of nursing: adult, children, mental health, and learning disability.

The role is regulated by the Nursing and Midwifery Council and therefore there are set education and practice standards which must be achieved to become a Nursing Associate. 

To become a Nursing Associate you will need to undergo a 2-year apprenticeship programme, during which time you will be employed as a trainee Nursing Associate. Some universities will also offer this programme as a direct entry programme.

What do you need to do to become a Nursing Associate

Having some experience in a health care role, such as care assistant is essential for most employers, although not all.

The Care Certificate is a set of 15 standards that sets out the knowledge, skills and behaviours expected if you are 'new to care'. It is ideal if you have completed this certificate before applying for a trainee Nursing Associate role. 

The admissions criteria for acceptance onto the Nursing Associate programme includes evidence of level 2 Maths and English skills. Evidence of a GCSE result at grade C (4) for Maths and English would be sufficient. If you do not have this, then you will be asked to sit a numeracy and literacy assessment as part of the recruitment process. Preparing for this assessment is recommended; your employer may provide support to help you with this. Most education providers will request that you then achieve a level 2 literacy and numeracy qualification before you start the programme.

For those coming from overseas, a successfully completed language test such as an International English Language Testing System (IELTS) achieving a minimum overall level of 7 (from 5 December 2018, although, a minimum overall level of 7 is required, a level 6.5 in writing will be accepted alongside a level 7 in reading, listening and speaking), or the Occupational English Test (OET) at level B. 

You need to be able to demonstrate the values and behaviours of the NHS Constitution. 

Education and training

The Nursing Associate programme is currently an apprenticeship, which means that you will be supported to undertake this by a healthcare employer. The programme is 2 years in length, which includes work-based learning, placements across different settings and a formal academic programme in an approved education institution.

Some universities will also offer this programme as a direct entry programme.

Personal characteristics

  • Ability to adapt to changing settings and situations
  • A strong work ethic
  • Compassion
  • Attention to detail
  • Quick thinking 
  • Strong communication skills
  • Technology savvy

Where can I find out more

Where the role can lead

While many people wish to continue working in the role, some may wish to progress to be a Registered Nurse. 

Page last updated - 26/07/2019