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Everything you need to know about training to be a Nursing Associate



The Nursing Associate is a new role within healthcare designed to bridge the gap between Healthcare Assistant and Registered Nurse.

According to Health Education England (HEE) the Nursing Associate role is a new support role which will sit alongside existing healthcare support workers and fully-qualified registered nurses to deliver hands-on care for patients. 

What qualifications will I need to become a Nursing AssociateYou can apply to become a nursing associate even if you don’t have any traditional academic qualifications. The entry requirements will depend on your NHS trust and local university. You should contact them for further clarification.


Are there any other requirements? You’ll need to be fluent in English and have an appropriate level of maths. You will also be required to complete an advanced DRB check (previously known as a CRB).

How much do nursing associates get paid? Trainee nursing associates are paid at band 3 and once qualified nursing associates will be paid at band 4. See agenda for change pay scales. 

How long does it take to train as a nursing associate? It takes around 2 years full-time to train as a nursing associate – this consists of both clinical and academic work.

What does the nursing associate job entail? The job specification is currently being developed by the Nursing & Midwifery Council (NMC). You are likely to undertake hand-on personal care for patients, administrations of some medications, documentation and basic clinical assessments.

Will nursing associates be registered? Yes, nursing associates are on-track to be registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council. You will be required to pay a yearly membership fee and keep up your professional registration in order to practice. You will be required to uphold a professional code of conduct, not only at work but in your everyday life.

How can I apply to become a nursing associate? Presently, you must be an existing employee of an NHS trust to apply to become a trainee nursing associate. New roles will be advertised internally or via NHS jobs.

Are nursing associates similar to associate practitioners? The role itself may be similar but currently associate practitioners are unregistered. The nursing associate role is designed to be nationally recognised and standardised.

Can nursing associates become registered nurses? The Department of Health and NHS England are currently working on a framework for nursing associates to become registered nurses. It will include academic further study and the further development of clinical skills and knowledge.


One in six nursing associates drop out before qualifying, finds report

Despite this trainees showed “high levels of enthusiasm and commitment to the programme”.



Group of nurses in meeting

Only 65% of trainee nursing associates said they planned to work as a nursing associate once qualified.

An independent evaluation of the nursing associate role commissioned by Health Education England (HEE) has found that while there are “high levels of enthusiasm and commitment to the programme”, one in six nursing associates are dropping out before completing the course.

Attrition rates for trainee nursing associates fell slightly below that of student nurses, with 18% leaving before completing the course.


While ill health and personal issues were some of the most common reasons for leaving the programme, nearly a quarter (23%) withdrew because they failed to meet the academic requirements of the programme – with numeracy skills cited as a key issue.

One trainee said they found the “attitudes towards the role and the negative feedback about Nursing Associates” challenging.

Only 65% of trainees said they intend to continue working as a nursing associate once qualified as the programme is often seen as a stepping stone to becoming a registered nursing.

Highlighting challenges.

Mark Radford, Chief Nursing Officer, Health Education England said the report “highlights some challenges that we must address to ensure that students such as ensuring the quality and oversight of placements, attrition and numeracy support.”

“We also recognise that further work and research is required to ensure that the profession is supported and utilised in the workforce of health and social care as part of the MDT. I am pleased to be able to report that we are in the process of identifying candidates to be considered as NA ambassadors across England.

Commenting on the report, Andrea Sutcliffe, Chief Executive and Registrar for the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), said; “Having had the pleasure of meeting many nursing associates across the country, I am continually inspired by their enthusiasm and dedication for providing care and they should be very proud of the difference they make for the people they support.”

“I look forward to seeing how nursing associates continue to develop and be supported in their work, long into the future.”

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UCAS accused of having an ‘outdated’ view on nurses

They describe the nursing role to prospective students as looking after people when they are sick or injured.



Student Nurse Lecture Theatre

UCAS describes nurses as providing “support to doctors and other medical staff”.

The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) has been accused of having an “outdated” view on nurses after it described the profession as providing “support to doctors and other medical staff”.

UCAS describes the nursing role to prospective students as looking after people when they are sick or injured. Adding; “You’ll provide support to doctors and other medical staff, take blood and urine samples, and in some cases, you may carry out minor surgical procedures.”


Nurses, alongside a multitude of other healthcare professionals, have taken to social media calling for the description to be amended so it “adequately reflects nursing in the 21st century”. They also criticised the article for failing to highlight a large number of health promotion and research roles frequently undertaken by the profession.

BJ Walto, a senior member of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) commented that the description is “inaccurate, demeaning and totally misleading portrayal of nursing.”

Tom Wavlin, a Lecturer in Adult Nursing & Admissions Tutor at the University of Plymouth, suggested the description could instead read; “an autonomous practitioner of nursing who works closely with other healthcare professionals”.

In comparison, the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) website reads; “Registered nurses play a vital role in providing, leading and coordinating care that is compassionate, evidence-based, and person-centred. They are accountable for their own actions and must be able to work autonomously, or as an equal partner with a range of other professionals, and in interdisciplinary teams.”

A spokesperson for UCAS said; “It’s clear that our current role profile for nurses doesn’t reflect the amazing work that nurses across the country do each day, and we welcome the feedback we’ve recently received.

“We want to make sure that students considering their future options have up-to date information about all different careers available to them.

“We’re currently updating all of our job profiles and are in touch with nursing experts to help us make sure that we better reflect the roles and responsibilities of nurses today.”

UPDATE (17/10/19 09:55): This article was updated to include a comment from UCAS.

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