The NMC has said the three core ambitions for the nursing associate role have been met as the first nursing associates revalidate with the regulator this month.
In a statement released this week, Sam Donohue, assistant director at the NMC, said the ‘unique’ role had achieved its aims of working alongside nurses in all settings, drawing on all fields of nursing practice, and offering progression to become a registered nurse.
Mr Donohue added that the number of nursing associates has grown to over 6,800 in the last three years. He also observed that while some have become registered nurses, others have moved into the education field, clinical practice or a range of other services.
He continued: ‘As our first nursing associates have their reflective revalidation discussions, I hope that they are remembering the journey that they have been on.’
The first nursing associates joined the NMC register in 2019, meaning they are due to revalidate this year, which is necessary to maintain NMC registration.
Mr Donohue said more than 8,000 health care assistants showing ‘breadth in age, cultural diversity, gender and years of experience’ applied for the first 2,000 trainee places announced in 2016.
He continued: ‘These trainees were the ambassadors, the champions and also the shapers of the role. The growth of the role in the health and social care workforce was dependent on services and settings realising its worth, but the acceptance of the role was fundamentally on the shoulders of those who were forging its path’.
Speaking about when the Covid-19 pandemic hit, he continued: ‘Throughout the pandemic, they shone, without any doubt this new profession stood shoulder to shoulder with our registered nurses and our teams to deliver care to our patients and their families’.
Some concerns still need to be addressed. For example, out of a total of 3,610 healthcare professionals who responded to Cogora’s annual State of Primary Care report in 2020, 13% said they would not consider employing a nursing associate and 43% did not know. Another initial scepticism was that it could lead to nursing substitutes on the cheap.
Mr Donohue added: ‘At one challenging time I was asked why I remained so determined to support this new profession; my answer was because I met the people that would become this new profession and they gave me hope’.
Revalidation allows everyone to assess the initial results of practice and reevaluate any shortcomings to better assist new practitioners.
The nursing associate role began with the goal of working alongside nurses across all four fields: adult, children’s, mental health, and learning disability. It provides practical training with the aim of improving knowledge, skills and competence. Lastly, it was designed to provide a clear progression from the role of nursing associate to registered nurse.