The QNI is currently completing its submission to Health Education England in response to the consultation on the introduction of a ‘nurse associate’ role. The proposal has arisen from the Shape of Caring report on the future education of nursing and care professionals.
The suggestion of another role to support nurses appears perplexing. There are, in the community and primary care, already many band 4 healthcare and nursing assistants who provide excellent support for registered nurses. Their role is delegated from the nurse and very often they deliver care on their own, in a patient’s home, behind closed doors. The registered nurse must be totally confident that their assistant has the skills, knowledge and competence to undertake their work without direct supervision. Nursing assistants working in the community and primary care require a significant amount of training and education, in addition to regular updates and clinical supervision.
The proposal for community and primary care is not so much about a changed role, as a consistent level of education and training for all healthcare and nursing assistants across the UK, providing a common set of transferable skills and knowledge – and the potential for professional regulation.
At University College London Hospitals, a level of training for nursing assistants at all band levels was introduced several years ago, to ensure consistency within and across the group of Trust hospitals. At the same time, the term ‘nursing assistant’ was introduced to properly describe the role to patients. All nursing assistants were required to complete the training, providing a level of assurance of the knowledge and skills of these support staff.
Similarly, the proposal for the education and training of the nurse associate role would provide a level of consistency in the training and education for all those working in the UK. It is possible that this will pave the way for regulation of the support role at this level - and it would be a wasted opportunity if this were not explored as the next logical step.
Without professional regulation, the opportunity for multiple routes by which the required programme of education will be delivered arises – and there will be no control around the delivery of the curriculum or the assessment methods needed to ensure the consistency that is at the heart of these proposals.
Crystal Oldman, chief executive, Queen’s Nursing Institute