Remove ambiguity around nursing associate role, says RCN

College adds that role could place pressure on support staff to act beyond their training

The role of the nursing associate remains ill-defined and some support staff could be pressurised into fulfilling duties outside their remit, the RCN has warned.

The NMC carried out a consultation on the nursing associate role. Picture: Alamy

The college was responding to the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s (NMC) consultation on regulation of the new role, which sits between healthcare assistants (HCAs) and registered nurses.

RCN general secretary Janet Davies said: ‘We are determined to see the successful integration of nursing associates into our current workforce and we will play our part in getting this right.

‘To ensure safe and effective patient care, nursing associate training must be consistent across England, and nursing associates must have supernumerary status while they train.’

She added: ‘For everybody’s sake, the ambiguity around the role must be removed, with nursing associates working under delegation from a registered nurse.

‘A lack of clarity over the scope and nature of the job could jeopardise patient care, and place unfair pressure on support staff asked to act beyond their training.’

Career progression

The NMC will regulate the new role, which aims to fill a gap in skills between HCAs and registered nurses. The nursing associate role will also be a progressive route into graduate-level nursing.

To help shape its response to the NMC consultation, the RCN held four workshops across England – the only part of the UK so far to consider nursing associates – and ran a survey, receiving 2,500 responses.

In its consultation response, the college repeats concerns that patient care would be put at risk if employers replaced nurses with nursing associates to save costs – with the RCN already expecting several employers to make savings this way.

Role checklist

The RCN believes the nursing associate role must be:

  • A support role that works under the delegation of a registered nurse
  • Adaptable to work in a variety of workplace settings, with a range of service users
  • Developed with recognition of the important role employers must play in supporting work-based learning
  • A viable platform for progression to become a graduate registered nurse
  • Most importantly, a contributor to high-quality, safe and effective patient care

The NMC consultation ran between 9 April and 2 July.

The NMC website said: ‘Following analysis, our standards and approach to regulating nursing associates will be finalised for approval by our council in September 2018. We expect to publish the finalised standards in October 2018.’

The first 2,000 student nursing associates began their two-year education and training in 2017. They will graduate and apply for registration with the NMC in January 2019.

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