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Training nursing associates

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 includes both academic and work-based learning and prepares trainees to work with people of all ages and in a variety of settings in health and social care.

Routes to training a nursing associate

Trainee nurse associates can either:

  • earn while they learn as part of an apprenticeship programme or
  • apply direct to university.

Currently, most nursing associate training programmes are being delivered through the apprenticeship route. However, a growing number of universities are now offering direct entry programmes, for which trainees will need to fund their own study. You can find a list of all approved programmes on the NMC website or visit UCAS to search for self-funded courses open to application.

Running an apprenticeship programme

You will need to:

Funding via the apprenticeship levy

Employers can use the apprenticeship levy to fund a nursing associate apprenticeship programme. The levy is paid by all employers who have an annual pay bill of £3 million or more. The rate is set at 0.5 per cent of the total pay bill and is paid to HMRC through the PAYE process. Those with a pay bill of less than £3 million don’t pay the levy and use different arrangements to pay for apprenticeship training.

Read Nursing Associates and the Apprenticeship Levy: A quick guide.

Find out more about the apprenticeship levy is, and how to use it within the NHS on the NHS Employers website.

For more on introducing a trainee nursing associate programme, please see the NHS Employers nursing associate handbook under ‘Establishing your nursing associate training programme’

Recruitment - entry requirements

As a minimum, trainee nursing associates will need GCSEs grade 9 to 4 (A to C) in Maths and English or Functional Skills Level 2 in Maths and English. They will also need to demonstrate:

  • their ability to study to level 5 foundation degree level
  • the values and behaviours of the NHS Constitution
  • a commitment to completing the Nursing Associate Apprenticeship programme.

Note that some universities may have additional requirements. Aspiring trainees without the relevant Maths and English requirements will be asked to sit a numeracy and literacy assessment as part of the recruitment process. Most education providers will request that trainees then achieve a level 2 literacy and numeracy qualification prior to starting the programme.

Functional skills training and examination is free to any learner who does not hold Maths and/or English GCSE at C or above (or equivalent). If you have employees who need further support with functional skills, you can direct them to your local further education college.

Applicants from non-English speaking countries will also need to have successfully completed a recognised English language test.

For more, please view the Functional skills toolkit produced by HEE London.

Please direct any potential trainee nursing associates to the nursing associate site for more information on the role.

Supporting newly qualified nursing associates

Newly qualified nursing associates may need time to adjust to the increased responsibility and accountability associated with being registered. You can support them to do this by:

  • promoting the role throughout your organisation
  • creating a formal job description and scope of practice
  • supported medicines administration procedures
  • offering preceptorship programmes.

For more on how to engage nurses and other health and care professionals in the new role, please visit NHS Employers: How do you involve staff in understanding the need for and placement of trainee nursing associates?

A preceptorship is a period of support and guidance for new registrants. HEE developed best practice guidance on preceptorship for nursing associates in 2018.

The wave 2 evaluation of the HEE nursing associate programme found that preceptorship programmes can have several benefits for recently qualified nursing associates. See Introduction of nursing associates – year 2 evaluation report, Traverse, October 2019.