What is a nursing associate?

A new role within the nursing team

A nursing associate is a new member of the nursing team who will provide care and support for patients and service users. This role is being used and regulated in England and it’s intended to address a skills gap between health and care assistants and registered nurses.

Nursing associate is a stand-alone role in its own right and will also provide a progression route into graduate level nursing.

Nursing associates will be trained to work with people of all ages and in a variety of settings in health and social care. It’s intended that the role will enable registered nurses to focus on more complex clinical duties.

Watch our film featuring trainee nursing associates and registered nurses describing how they see the nursing associate role contributing to better patient 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 will know and be 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.

Like nurses and other health professionals, they may expand their scope of practice through further education and experience.

Nurse leaders in England have been clear in a joint statement that the intention is for nursing associates to support, not substitute, registered nurses, and emphasised that by having a more highly educated and skilled support staff should enable better use to be made of graduate nurse resources.

Introducing nursing associates

2,000 student nursing associates at 35 Health Education England test sites across England are completing pilot programmes that they started in 2017.

They will apply to register with us from January 2019 and will join a new nursing associate part of the register – they won’t be registered as nurses.

A further 5,000 are planned to start programmes in 2018 and 7,500 in 2019.

Find out more about becoming a nursing associate.