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University launches self-funded nursing associate degree pathway

The two-year full-time course has broken away from the apprenticeship route.



Clinical Skills Suite, Chesterfield.
University of Derby

Direct entry allows for trainee nursing associates to be fully supernumerary.

The University of Derby has launched one of the countries first self-funded nursing associate foundation degree pathways.

Their two-year full-time course has broken away from the traditional apprenticeship route, offering students ‘direct entry’ into a programme that is “more like a student nurse programme in the way it is taught and organised.”


Direct entry trainee nursing associates will study the same content and undertake the same number of practice hours as their apprentice counterparts but will benefit from full supernumerary status – allowing for better learning and development opportunities.

Applicants will be required to have a level 2 qualification in English, a level 2 qualification in Maths, 64-80 UCAS points, undertake a criminal background check and meet any occupational health standards.

The course will subject to tuition fees of £9,250 per year.

Upon completion of the course, students will also be given the opportunity to join the universities undergraduate nursing programme at the half-way point.

Education makes a difference.

David Robertshaw, Head of Pre-Qualification Healthcare at the University of Derby, told NursingNotes; “We were one of the first pilot sites and had the largest single-University group of trainee nursing associates in the first wave. We’re really proud of our first wave of nursing associates who completed their programmes earlier this year and who will graduate in July at Derby Velodrome.”

“Nationally there are number targets for the role, and we need to work together as integrated systems to achieve these. We don’t think these targets can be met by apprenticeship trainee nursing associates alone, so this is one of the reasons we’ve decided to start a non-apprenticeship pre-registration programme which is a bit more like a student nurse programme in the way it is taught and organised.”

“We also recognise there are great workforce challenges looming, and we need as many qualified and trained people as possible to work in our health and care systems.

“We believe health and care systems should be designed around their users, and that people should see the right professional at the right time. We also know that education really makes a difference to not just the patient’s experience but also their survival.

“But we also know that there are many people who can’t enter into professional training programmes for lots of reasons, but who would still make excellent health and social care professionals.”


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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