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Taking the apprenticeship route: Guide to becoming a nursing associate

Happy nursing assosiates

At the end of last year, the government announced plans to create a new nursing support role. Those working as a provisionally titled ‘nursing associate” will deliver hands-on care, working alongside healthcare support workers and fully qualified nurses.

If the idea of an apprenticeship in nursing appeals to you, here’s what you need to know.

What career opportunities does it offer?

The role of nursing associate will offer a direct route into nursing for those who prefer not to go to university, and will bridge the gap between senior healthcare assistants who hold a care certificate and registered, graduate nurses.

Learning will be on-the-job and will lead to a foundation degree. On completion, nursing associates can then go on to become a registered nurse either by completing a degree-level nursing apprenticeship or by taking a shortened nursing degree at university.

The proposal, which has been met with a “cautious welcome” by many in the industry, is seen as particularly good news for healthcare assistants.

Jane Cummings, Chief Nursing Officer for England, commented:

‘Health and care assistants are a really important part of the team’ and added that they should be given an opportunity to develop new skills and follow a tangible career path.’

Janet Davies, Chief Executive & General Secretary of the RCN, also welcomed the ‘recognition of the value of healthcare assistants,’ adding that the initiative would give those in unregulated positions access to training via a clear structure, as well as offering a route into the profession to those who would otherwise have been denied the opportunity.

However, Unison warned that not all HCAs want to go on to be nurses, and that the new roles must not be a “cheap” way of replacing fully-trained nurses.

Christina McAnea, head of health, said:

‘We know it can be a struggle for healthcare assistants to gain access to any training so many will see this as an opportunity. But not all HCAs want to go on to become nurses, so it’s important that new roles do not undermine those who wish to stay in their current job.

‘And we need to ensure these new roles are not used as a cheap way to replace registered nurses.’

How many will there be?

The government expects to train around 1,000 nursing associates to begin with this year, though individual NHS organisations will be responsible for deciding how many they need.

Government officials are keen to point out that the number of nursing associates will be in addition to planned nursing numbers, not replacements for them. The creation of the new role should not affect the number of university nursing placements in any way.

What does the role of nursing associate involve?

The idea is that trained nursing associates will deliver hands-on care, freeing up time for existing nurses so they can use their specialist training to focus on clinical duties and take more of a lead in decisions around patient care.

While they will take on some of their functions, nursing associates will “assist” registered graduate nurses, who remain ultimately responsible for patients.

Janet Davies explains:

‘A registered nurse is a clinical decision-maker with degree-level knowledge and skills, considerable experience of caring for people with multiple or complex conditions, plus the ability to supervise and educate more junior staff.’

Dame Eileen Sills, chief nurse at Guys’ and St Thomas’ Foundation Trust, told the Nursing Times that the role must be ‘broad enough to add value to the nursing team,’ but would also need to be regulated.

What happens next?

At the start of the year, the government entered a period of consultation with key representatives from the nursing industry, including the Nursing and Midwifery Council and the Royal College of Nursing.

Janet Davies of the RCN says: ‘We will be responding in full to the consultation to ensure that this new role is fully funded, without detracting from the wider workforce, and above all is an asset to care and to patients.’

The role will need to be fully tested and developed, and is likely to be introduced at a number of pilot sites before being rolled out nationally.


Update 6 June 2016
To find out more about it, consult one of the following information resources:

  1. Uk gov website:
  2. UK Dept of Health email updates:
  3. RCN Foundation:


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20 comments… add one
  • I would like to apply for the nursing apprenticeship. I am currently working as support project worker.

  • I am intersting to make same progress in mi carrier, now i work like health care assistent at Barchester. I finish mi Master Degree in mi country, i worked many yers as i social worker.

  • This is going to be a fantastic opportunity for most of the people that are presently care assistant to develop their skills in order to deliver high standard of care.

  • I would like to sign up for the nurse associate course

  • Good idea. I like it. But I’m already a carer. What do I do?

  • I would love to be a part of this wonderful idea since am into caring.
    I would like to know how to enrol in becoming a nursing associate.
    I hope to hear from you soon.
    Mrs Rachael Igbarie

  • Hi
    I am a qualified Nurse from India, British Citizen now, currently working as a Health Care Assistant within NHS. I would like to know how to enrol in becoming Nursing Associate. Thanks.

  • I am a nurse from India. I have completed my MSc nursing from Teesside University, UK. I have 8 years experience as a nurse in India and one year as a carer in a care home in the UK.Can I apply for this course?

    • I I’m from Portugal, I m qualified Sociocultural Animator, can I apply for this course??

  • Hi,
    I would like the opportunity to be a nursing associate and also i was wondering if you need qualifications or not and when this is going to happen.
    thank you for your time,

  • I am an experienced health care assistant who is interested in progressing. I would like to know how I can enrol to the nursing associate course?

    • How/where can I find a nursing associate course?

  • Hi, I would like to apply how do I go about as I do have a degree in early years and interested in paediatric nursing.

  • Thank You for issuing the page on your website.

    How can I apply for the role of associate nursing as there is little that I can find on the internet about this fantastic opportunity. I am male HCA working on an acute care ward and would like to find out some more information.

  • l would like the opportunity Nursing Associate role…How can l enrol this course….

  • Hi
    I am a nurse from India.working here as a senior carer last 7yrs.l would like to know how can I join nursing associate course.many tnx

  • I am an experienced health care assistance with more than ten years. I have NVQ3 in Health and Social Care. I would like to know how I can enrol to the nursing associate

  • I am studying for an access to nursing course. I would like to know how I apply for the nursing apprenticeship.

  • Can I get information about the apprenticeship scheme as I am a care worker with a level 2 in H.S.C and a Care Certificate.

  • I currently work for bupa as hca have over 8 years experience community and home care fully qualified how do I apply for this


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