Careers

Why we should be celebrating nursing support workers

They have a critical role in patient care – and never more so than during COVID-19

From assistant practitioners to healthcare assistants, this workforce has a critical role in patient care and outcomes

This year has shone a light on our entire health and care system in a way never seen before.

Newspaper, radio and television reports have reported daily on the impact of the COVID-19 virus.

First ever Nursing Support Workers Day

The nursing workforce continues to be at forefront of efforts to fight the virus, and that includes the vital roles played by nursing support workers.

The RCN has more than 26,000 nursing support worker members, working across all hospital departments as well as in GP surgeries, care homes, community services,

From assistant practitioners to healthcare assistants, this workforce has a critical role in patient care and outcomes

The first nursing associate cohort in training
The first nursing associate cohort in training Picture: John Houlihan

This year has shone a light on our entire health and care system in a way never seen before.

Newspaper, radio and television reports have reported daily on the impact of the COVID-19 virus.

First ever Nursing Support Workers Day

The nursing workforce continues to be at forefront of efforts to fight the virus, and that includes the vital roles played by nursing support workers.

The RCN has more than 26,000 nursing support worker members, working across all hospital departments as well as in GP surgeries, care homes, community services, the independent sector and other health and social care settings.

The first Nursing Support Workers Day, on 23 November, celebrates their vital role in the health and care system.

What is a nursing support worker?

The term nursing support worker encompasses many different job titles and roles, including healthcare support workers, assistant practitioners, nursing associates and healthcare assistants.

Nursing support workers can work independently, alongside nurses and as part of wider multidisciplinary teams.

They have a critical role in delivering high quality care and excellent outcomes for patients.

Nursing support worker roles in the NHS typically start on bands 2-4 , however this will differ across health and social care.

There are also training opportunities for those who wish to progress their careers.

Applicants for nursing support worker roles are expected to have good literacy and numeracy skills and employers may ask for GCSEs (or equivalent) in English and maths. They may also ask for a healthcare qualification, such as BTEC or NVQ.

Roles ranging from mental health to cardiac and neonatal care

Having started my career in health and social care more than 30 years ago, I qualifed as an assistant practitioner in 2012 and trained in endoscopy before moving to join a district nursing team.

I now work as a healthcare apprenticeships trainer and assessor, helping people starting off this wonderful and diverse career.

As the chair of the RCN’s nursing support worker committee, I work alongside Ofrah Muflahi, our professional lead for nursing support workers, to ensure this group is supported.

Among the general public there is probably little understanding of the diverse roles and settings for nursing support workers, yet they can be found in every part of our health and care sector.

‘Ask any registered nurse working in any service and they will tell you they simply could not do their job without the support of their nursing support workers’

Some may picture a healthcare assistant working on a hospital ward, assisting the registered nurse with a clinical and therapeutic tasks.

Of course, these roles continue to exist, and no ward would be able to operate effectively without them, but nursing support workers also work across mental health, critical care, cardiac and neonatal units, care homes and all other areas.

Ask any registered nurse working in any service and they will tell you they simply could not do their job without the support of their NSWs.

It is a hugely rewarding career, and in many cases allows staff to play a central role in the development of new services.

Changing patient experiences and outcomes

A nursing support worker was among those whose outstanding work was recognised at the RCNi Nurse Awards 2020.

Rea Pugh-Davies, winner of the Nursing Support Worker category of the RCNi Nurse Awards 2020
Rea Pugh-Davies, winner of the Nursing Support Worker category of the RCNi Nurse Awards 2020
Picture: Stephen Shepherd

Rea Pugh-Davies was honoured for her work supporting the creation of a service for patients with learning disabilities who need to be admitted for surgery.

Her bespoke planning makes complex hospital admissions a positive experience for these patients at Neath Port Talbot Hospital in south Wales, part of Swansea Bay University Health Board.

Having realised that a complete change of daily routine on the day of surgery was not in the patients’ best interests, Ms Pugh-Davies established a system to make the process less stressful for them and their families, and ultimately to improve outcomes.

It’s a fantastic example of the kind of work that nursing support workers are involved in every day – not only improving services for patients but bringing in different perspectives that helps to provide better care.

The start of a rewarding career

There are thousands of nursing support workers across the UK who enjoy long and successful careers, delivering care and improving services and outcomes for patients every day.

The first Nursing Support Workers Day celebrates their contribution to the health and care system. I hope it encourages more people to explore these roles as the beginning of an incredibly rewarding career.

Follow #NursingSupportWorkersDay on Twitter


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