The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) is releasing its draft standards of proficiency to the nursing associates test sites in order to give trainers a blueprint of the skills the new role is expected to have.
The standards will also aim to clarify the differences between the nursing associate role and that of a registered nurse.
At the NMC council meeting on 27 September, the regulator’s director of education, standards and policy, Geraldine Walters, said it was taking the ‘unusual step in order to give test sites the best possible opportunity to absorb and prepare for the NMC’s likely expectations of people who apply to join our nursing associate register.’
But the draft standards do not include information on what is expected from nursing associates regarding medicines management and administration. The meeting heard that ‘the precise standards of proficiency for medicines management and administration are being developed. There is a general view that nursing associates should have proficiency in medicines administration.’
The NMC is talking to Health Education England and senior stakeholders to agree ‘an appropriate level of proficiency.’
So far 2,000 people have started their two year training courses, which are on offer at 30 universities and colleges.
The first trainees started at 17 pilot sites in January and more people began their training in March.
The proposed standards are designed to make it easier to compare the skills of nursing associates and registered nurses. The NMC will run a consultation on them next spring.
They cover accountability, promoting health, monitoring patients’ needs and evaluating care.
Nursing associates will also be expected to work in teams, improve safety and quality of care, and contribute to integrated care from a range of providers.
The NMC will regulate nursing associates, but the necessary legislation will not come into effect until after the first group qualify in 2019.
The Department of Health announced the new role in 2016 to ‘bridge the gap’ between unregulated health and care support workers and registered nurses.
The nursing associate will be a ‘generic practitioner’ across health and care settings in England.
A previous report acknowledged there was ‘some scepticism and concern within the nursing community’ that nursing associates will be a substitute for nurses as the profession faces a 40,000 shortfall.
The meeting discussed the proposed standards, with council member Ruth Walker saying she welcomed the ‘clear blue water between the two roles’ of nursing associate and registered nurse.
Members wanted to see changes in the document to clarify the role nursing associates will play to support registered nurses in health promotion.
They welcomed details about delegation and accountability of work between nursing associates, registered nurses and other colleagues.
It is also considering if it needs to draw up extra guidance about the accountability and delegating activities between registered nurses, nursing associates and other healthcare and team members.