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Nursing associates work alongside nurses but are not able to undertake all tasks that nurses can. It is important for nurses to be familiar with the role in order to delegate to and manage them appropriately
The nursing associate role was created to help address the nursing shortage in England, bridge the skills gap between healthcare assistants/clinical support workers and registered nurses.
Citation: Davis H (2020) Nursing associates: the new addition to the nursing profession. Nursingtimes.net, 05/10/2020.
Author: Helen Davis is assistant lecturer, Department for Children and Young People’s Health, Birmingham City University.
The nursing profession has undergone many changes throughout the years. 2016 saw the most major change, when the nursing associate (NA) role was announced (Health Education England, 2015). You have more than likely worked alongside trainee nursing associates, or NAs who became registered in April 2019 following the two-year training programme, and you are likely to work alongside NAs and trainee NAs on a regular basis. You may also be responsible for managing them or delegating tasks to them. It is important to recognise that the NA role is not seen as a replacement to the registered nurse role, but rather as a supporting role.
Background to the role
For some years, the nursing profession has seen a dramatic decrease in staff retention, training and recruitment, and the review conducted by Wanless (2002) brought to light the impending deterioration in deterioration of the public if strategies were not put into place. The NA role evolved as a result of the government employing different strategies in response to this; the role was created to help such preventative measures flourish and help nurses continue to provide the highest standard of care and meet the six Cs (care, compassion, competence, communication, courage and commitment) (Rosser, 2016).
What is the nurse associate role?
The NA is a new role, independent of others such as clinical support worker, healthcare assistant and nurse. Its introduction aims to provide the nursing workforce with a skillset that bridges the gap between healthcare assistants/clinical support workers and registered nurses (Rosser, 2016).
The two-year NA training programme incorporates training across the fields of child, adult, learning disabilities, mental health and community, and trainees are expected to gain a range of experiences. It is a general qualification, so at the point of registration they will be able to work in any field of nursing. NAs must join the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) register and work under a professional PIN just as nurses do; they have the same professional code of conduct as registered nurses and midwives, although the role is governed by NMC standards of proficiency designed specifically for NAs.
What are the benefits of the role?
While the NA role brings about change to the profession, it also brings with it plenty of benefits: it benefits staffing numbers, allows nurses to progress to advanced roles, and ultimately improves patient care (Traverse, 2018). It also offers a career development path for healthcare assistants and clinical support workers and can be a route into becoming a registered nurse.
The standards of proficiency for NAs includes an annex of communication and relationship management skills those in the role are expected to be able to carry out, and one on Procedures to be undertaken by NAs (NMC, 2018). In order to ensure NAs practise at the appropriate level you should familiarise yourself with these annexes and ensure you can delegate appropriately in your role as staff nurse.