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Nursing Associate

What is a Nursing Associate?

Nursing Associate is a relatively new, but vital, role, in place to support Registered Nurses and the wider healthcare team in providing high levels of patient care to people of all ages, across the sector. The role covers a wide range of duties relating to the physical and mental health and wellbeing of patients; it sits within the nursing team but ‘bridges the gap’ between qualified nurses and support worker staff such as Health and Care Assistants.

A Registered Nursing Associate (RNA) will have completed competency-based training or be undertaking an apprenticeship as a trainee in order to give person-centred, hands-on care to patients in general practice, care homes, hospitals, within community settings and more.

Duties are wide-ranging, but may at least include:

  • Nursing tasks (e.g. blood pressure checks, ECG, minor wound care, immunisations, monitoring of chronic or long-term disease, smoking cessation advice, cervical screening, and more)
  • Assisting doctors (such as with minor surgeries or procedures)
  • Taking patient history and referring patients to relevant clinicians
  • Providing appropriate self-care and lifestyle advice to patients with minor conditions
  • General assistance to nurses and other healthcare staff

Find out more about Nursing roles, including Nursing Associate, on our Careers pages.

The Nursing Associate Apprenticeship

Find out more about Apprenticeships

The Nursing Associate apprenticeship is one of the available routes for training (and ultimately fully qualifying/registering) as a Nursing Associate – the scheme combines elements of study and practical work to support candidates to train towards qualification whilst earning money in post.

As an apprentice you’ll be employed and will work as part of a multidisciplinary team (including nurses) to develop your skills, knowledge and confidence, gaining valuable hands-on experience; this is supported by part-time ‘classroom learning’ at university.

Benefits of the apprenticeship:

  • An annual salary – ‘earn while you learn’
  • University fees paid by your employer (up to £15,000)
  • Travel fees (to your university for associated study) paid by your employer
  • Support from your employer and Practice Education Facilitators

By the end of your training apprenticeship, you’ll have gained a foundation degree. You’ll need to complete registration with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) but then you’re a fully registered, qualified Nursing Associate.

This is a standalone, and rewarding, role in its own right – but is also a step in the right direction if your ultimate goal is becoming a Registered Nurse; you can go on to complete a shortened nursing degree (or nursing apprenticeship) with a wealth of knowledge and experience already under your belt.

“I feel so honoured I got the chance to complete an apprenticeship and attend university as a mature student. I have always wanted to be a nurse and work for the NHS and finally I can fulfil my dream.”

Clare Ruffell

Entry Requirements and Eligibility

To be eligible to join the Nursing Associate apprenticeship you will typically need:

  • GCSEs (A-C/4-9) in English and maths (or Functional Skills Level 2 in the same subjects)
  • To demonstrate your ability to study at level 5 foundation degree level
  • To demonstrate commitment to completing the programme

In the event you don’t hold the above qualifications, you may be asked to complete literacy and/or numeracy assessments as part of the recruitment process; many education providers may also request you achieve a level 2 numeracy and literacy qualifications before you join the scheme. If you’re already employed, your employer may be able to support you with this.

Frequently Asked Questions

What kind of settings can I work in as a Nursing Associate/Trainee Nursing Associate?

This role can be based in a range of settings – this includes caring for people in their own home, in a general or mental health hospital, in general practice, or in the community. Nursing Associates care for a variety of patients with different physical, mental or behavioural needs, which means they are based in almost any healthcare setting. You will typically visit different placements and settings throughout your apprenticeship.

What’s the difference between a Nursing Associate and a Registered Nurse?

Both of these roles require registration with the NMC. A Nursing Associate works with other nurses as well as the wider healthcare team, but this is not a nurse role. Nurses are a graduate entry profession – in short meaning you would require a degree in order to train as nurse. However, to work as a Nursing Associate, you would need to complete a foundation degree (usually 2 years) – once qualified you can go on to study towards additional nursing qualifications.

You can find out more about healthcare roles and responsibilities on our Careers pages.

What’s the difference between a Nursing Associate and a Health and Care Assistant?

The Nursing Associate role effectively sits between that of a Registered Nurse and Health and Care Assistant roles; Nursing Associates are regulated by the NMC and have typically spent 2 years training for the role. Nursing Associates directly contribute to core nursing work, allowing Registered Nurses to focus on more complex clinical care tasks – unlike Health and Care Assistants, whose tasks usually do not overlap much with those of the nursing team.

You can find out more about healthcare roles and responsibilities on our Careers pages.

How can I find out about Nursing Associate training or apprenticeship opportunities in my area?

You can visit our Vacancies page to find organisations in your area who will be able to connect you with nearby Nursing Associate training opportunities – or you can search for apprenticeships on the NHS Jobs website. You can also study as a Nursing Associate (as an alternative to the apprenticeship scheme) – search for courses and apply directly to universities through the UCAS website. If you have any questions in the meantime, please do get in touch and we can guide you.

Got a question? Check out Nursing Associate FAQs at the bottom of the page.

Click to find out more about Apprenticeships in Health and Social Care.

If you are interested in finding out more or would like to apply to become a Nursing Associate, please express an interest using our online form.