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Nursing associate

A new support role in patient care

Nursing associates

The nursing associate is a new support role in England that bridges the gap between healthcare support workers and registered nurses to deliver hands-on, person-centred care as part of the nursing team. Nursing associates work with people of all ages in a variety of settings in health and social care.

The role was introduced in response to the Shape of Caring Review (2015), to help build the capacity of the nursing workforce and the delivery of high-quality care. It will be a vital part of the wider health and care team and aims to:

  • support the career progression of healthcare assistants
  • enable nurses to focus on more complex clinical work
  • increase the supply of nurses by providing a progression route into graduate-level nursing.

Benefits for employers

Employers that have invested in the nursing associate role as part of wider workforce planning and skills mix transformation have seen a number of benefits, including:

  • improved service delivery and patient care
  • improved staff retention through career progression
  • the ability to ‘grow your own’ nursing workforce
  • investing in a tried and tested training programme, accredited by the NMC.

“Nursing associates are working in new ways, they are more engaged not just in the patient’s care, but also in the running of the ward and in the supervision of some student nurses. What you find is that all staff on the ward start learning together and talking in a more proactive way about patient pathways and diseases, it’s been a very positive experience.” Ward manager

To find out more, please view:

Why employ a nursing associate? (pdf)

Why employ a nursing associate? (PowerPoint template)

Case studies

Nursing associates in mental health

Nikki Rushin, nursing associate and Theresa Jenkinson, ward manager at Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust explain the benefits of the role.

For further case studies, please visit the nursing associate website.

Deployment of nursing associates

Nursing associates can be deployed across a range of health and social care settings. Find out more about workforce planning and deployment of nursing associates.

Building a business case

You may need to present a business case to your board to secure the required investment to develop this role in your organisation.

Visit the NHS Employers website for a list of prompts and an example business case.

Training and regulation

The nursing associate role is regulated by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).

To become a registered nursing associate, individuals must pass a foundation degree awarded by an NMC-approved provider, typically taken over two years. The programme prepares trainees to work with people of all ages and in a variety of settings in health and social care. Trainee nursing associates can either earn while they learn as part of an apprenticeship programme, or go through a self-funded route. Find out more about training a nursing associate.

Useful links

Nursing associates website

Health Careers website

Employers guide to nursing associates (NHS Employers)

Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) resources

Information for nursing associates in social care (Skills for Care)