Employers urged to dispel ‘myths’ about nursing associates

NHS Employers, which acts on behalf of trusts in the health service, has produced an online advice document to help employers develop and deploy the new role within their organisations.

“The nursing associate role needs national support and leadership to succeed”

Danny Mortimer

A pilot programme launched in 2017 has since seen thousands of trainee nursing associates rolled out across various test sites.

From 28 January, those who have successfully completed their training programmes will able to join the Nursing and Midwifery Council register for the first time and will become newly-qualified nursing associates.

Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, said: “The nursing associate role needs national support and leadership to succeed.

“Future workforce plans outlined in the NHS Long Term Plan include new roles, such as the nursing associate role, as part of our teams,” he said. 

“The guide will help organisations think how to develop and deploy the role across the NHS and wider,” Mr Mortimer added. 

The main route to become a nursing associate will be an apprenticeship, in which students split their time between on-the-job training and academic study.

However, NHS Employers noted that education providers might also provide “conventional or fee-paying routes” into the nursing associate profession “if the demand is there” in the future.

The document offered employers guidance on introducing trainee nursing associate programmes and also on the employment and deployment of qualified nursing associates.

It stated: “The development of trainee nursing associate programmes and implementation of the new role will need to be supported by everyone in the organisation, from board members and senior leaders through to line managers, multi-disciplinary teams, patients and service users.”

In addition, the guide set out some of the challenges faced by employers during the trainee nursing associate pilot scheme.

These included lack of acceptance or awareness of the new role among the wider care team, and other professionals such as registered nurses seeing the nursing associate as a “threat”.

“Employers tell us they require an increasingly flexible workforce”

NHS Employers 

NHS Employers recommended that organisations introducing a nursing associate training programme should put a “strong support network” in place for the students.

It added: “Support trainee nursing associates by promoting their role and its benefits widely among the workforce, including communications about myths relating to the role.”

The NMC has developed and published standards of proficiency for nursing associates, which set out the knowledge, competencies, professional values and behaviours expected of them at the point of registration.

The six main proficiencies are:

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

NHS Employers noted that these could be used to help employers make decisions about whether and how to use the role within their organisation for the benefit of patient care.

The nursing associate role was developed to bridge the skills gap between healthcare assistants and registered nurses and also to offer a new pathway to become a registered nurse.

In a survey carried out by NHS Employers in April 2017, employers said nursing associates would offer a host of benefits including improving patient experience and safety, and offering development opportunities for support staff.

They also said the introduction of the new role would give registered nurses more time to concentrated on complex care, and would tackle nurse shortage by offering a new route into the profession.

“Employers tell us they require an increasingly flexible workforce to keep pace with developments in patient care treatments and interventions,” the guide said.

“The nursing associate role is designed to provide employers with a range of skills within multidisciplinary teams, and to help teams make best use of the skills within the registered nursing workforce, which have been developed further through the new Future Nurse standards,” it added. 

The release of the document followed the publication of a guide by the National Quality Board on how to deploy nursing associates into secondary care.