Devon’s Nursing Associate trainees start work towards pioneering new healthcare role

Dozens of trainees have started an exciting new pilot programme in hospitals and care homes across Devon, training in a new role to become Nursing Associates.

Devon was selected as one of 11 pilot sites nationally and the only one in the south to develop the role.  The Nursing Associate position is a new role alongside existing others, which is designed to bridge the gap between health and care support workers, who have a care certificate, and graduate registered nurses and offers opportunities for health care assistants to progress into nursing roles.

A total of 69 trainees are currently employed within the following organisations

  • Northern Devon Healthcare Trust
  • Royal Devon & Exeter NHS Foundation Trust
  • Torbay and South Devon Foundation Trust
  • Plymouth Hospitals NHS trust
  • Livewell South West Plymouth.

They will be undertaking placements in various health and social care providers including private care homes, GP practices, Hospiscare, SWAST, Devon Partnership Trust. Each Nursing Associate’s training will take two years to complete and will be a combination of work-based competencies, hands-on experience and least one study day a week. The training providers are South Devon College and Petroc College, supported by Plymouth University.

Nursing Associate Trainee Leanne Richards said: “The role provides a fantastic opportunity to progress in my career by completing my studies at the same time as earning my regular salary. My ultimate goal is to qualify as a registered nurse and this could be the ideal route to achieving the career I have long aspired to.

“The training itself is proving to be both stimulating and challenging. It requires absolute commitment to full time work, college days and self- study but the feeling of achievement when you manage to juggle all three is well worth it. I have already acquired so many new practical skills whilst on my first placement, gained a much wider knowledge of different elements of healthcare practice and appreciated a new level of responsibility.

“I would be lying if I said it was easy, but so far I’m feeling increasingly positive that the introduction of the Nursing Associate role is a step in the right direction in providing quality patient care.”

The pilot site is part of the wider Devon Sustainability and Transformation Programme (STP). Devon was selected by Health Education England after a bidding process. As part of its bid, Devon STP stressed the unique challenge it faces in attracting Registered Nurses (RNs) due to its large rural area and shortage of supporting transport routes.

Em Wilkinson-Brice, Deputy Chief Executive/Chief Nurse at the RD&E, which is acting as the lead site for Devon, said: “Nursing recruitment is a challenge nationally and particularly in Devon and we believe this new role will help to strengthen and diversify the nursing skill base across the county at a critical time of change for health and care services in the county. Creating these new Nursing Associate roles provides exciting opportunities for health care assistants and provides a career pathway for nurses spanning basic to advanced practice aligned to the needs of patients.”

Professor Ian Cumming, Chief Executive of Health Education England, said: “We are at a pivotal point in determining what the future nursing and care workforce needs to look like for now and in the years to come. I passionately believe that this new role will help build the capacity and capability of the health and social care workforce and allow high quality care to be delivered to a diverse and ageing population.”