What is a nursing associate?

A new role within the nursing team

A nursing associate is a new member of the nursing team in England. This role is designed to help bridge the gap between health and care assistants and registered nurses.

Nursing associate is a stand-alone role that will also provide a progression route into graduate level nursing.

Nursing associates work with people of all ages and in a variety of settings in health and social care. The role will contribute to the core work of nursing, freeing up registered nurses to focus on more complex clinical care.

How the nursing associate role was developed

The Shape of Caring review, held by Health Education England (HEE) in 2015, identified a gap in skills and knowledge between healthcare assistants and registered nurses.

The Government announced the creation of a new healthcare role in England called a nursing associate to bridge this gap and help meet the changing health and care needs of patients and the public.

HEE then carried out a six-week public consultation on the new role to help its development.

Most people who responded to the HEE consultation were in favour of nursing associate regulation. There was a strong view that without regulation, the role might not be used to its full scope. The Secretary of State agreed that regulation was needed to protect the public and asked us to regulate the role.

We became the legal regulator for nursing associates in July 2018.

What a nursing associate is able to do

We’ve set the standards for nursing associates and nursing associate programmes. These set out what a nursing associates should know and be able to do when they join our register. 

This makes sure that everyone entering the profession has the skills they need to care for people safely, with integrity, expertise, respect and compassion, from the moment they step into their first job.

Like nurses and other health professionals, nursing associates can expand their knowledge and skills with the right training and clinical governance.

The intention is for nursing associates to support, not substitute, registered nurses.

The first nursing associates

In 2017, 2,000 student nursing associates started pilot programmes at 35 Health Education England test sites across England.

The first nursing associates joined our register when it opened on 28 January 2019.

The Government announced that over 5,000 people were recruited as trainee nursing associates in 2018, with the ambition to attract a further 7,500 in 2019.

Find out more about becoming a nursing associate.