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RCN welcomes clarification on new nursing assistant role in Northern Ireland

The RCN has welcomed clarification on the responsibilities of the newly renamed nursing assistant role in Northern Ireland, which follows a decision to reclassify healthcare assistants


Picture: Paul Stuart

The RCN has welcomed clarification on the responsibilities of the newly renamed nursing assistant role in Northern Ireland.

The role emerged following a decision to reclassify healthcare assistants as nursing assistants, made in recognition of the contribution support staff make to the nursing workforce.

New standards issued by Northern Ireland’s Department of Health provide details on expectations of the 4,000 nursing assistants.

Wider skill set

They also state that band 3 staff will be given the title senior nursing assistant ‘in recognition of their wider skill set’.

Northern Ireland chief nursing officer Charlotte McArdle told the Northern Ireland Practice and Education Council Annual Conference: ‘Nursing assistants play a vital role in supporting registered nurses in the provision of nursing care, and these new resources recognise and endorse the valuable contribution made by this group of staff within the nursing workforce.’


Charlotte McArdle: Nursing
assistants play a vital role.

According to the department’s website, the four standards nursing assistants must adhere to are:

  • Support the delivery of safe, person-centred and compassionate care to people who use health services.
  • Communicate openly and honestly to promote the health and well-being of patients.
  • Maintain knowledge, skills and experience to enable them to do their job properly, in order to improve the quality of care provided.
  • Respect and protect at all times the right to confidentiality, privacy and dignity for patients.

Career progression options

Professor McArdle said an induction and development pathway would ‘promote consistent development and support of the role across the health and social care system’.

She said the changes would ‘maximise the skills and competencies’ of the country’s 4,000 nursing assistants and ‘facilitate career progression options’.

RCN Northern Ireland head of professional development Rita Devlin said the college had been fully consulted on the nursing assistant title change and development of the standards.

‘Nurses can delegate appropriately and safely’

She said the induction and development pathway would promote consistent training, competencies and career progression options and ‘ensure registered nurses can delegate appropriately and safely’.

‘Having agreed standards and a recognised title will ultimately enhance the care given to patients and clarify the role within a nursing context,’ she added.

The Northern Ireland Department of Health is setting up a group to oversee the rollout of the standards across all trusts. Nominations for members of the implementation group are currently being accepted.


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