A total of 51 nurses have so far received accreditation for working at an advanced level of practice through a new voluntary credentialing scheme that was piloted at the end of last year.
The Royal College of Nursing, which is running the programme, said a further 57 nurses were now having their applications assessed since the scheme officially launched in May.
Those running the programme told Nursing Times that only three people so far had failed to meet the criteria for accreditation – which includes holding a prescribing qualification and having completed a master’s degree.
“There has always been this thing about advanced nurse practitioners – because it is not regulated anyone can use the title”
There are currently no national competency standards set by the Nursing and Midwifery Council for advanced nurse practitioners. The new RCN scheme marks the first time nurses working at this level are able to receive recognition for their practice.
Applicants have come from across the UK and were predominantly working in primary care, followed by surgery and orthopaedics, and accident and emergency, the RCN’s project manager for credentialing, Nicholas Paterson, told Nursing Times.
Mr Paterson said the college had expected the greatest level of interest to come from these settings and said, on average, one nurse was signing up every other day.
Prior to the RCN launching the scheme, the college estimated there could be tens of thousands of nurses working at an advanced level, based on the fact there were more than 35,000 independent and supplementary prescribers registered with the NMC.
“Credentialing is part of the way to fill that regulatory gap but only NMC can do that fully”
According to Mr Paterson, “a lot” of the people who were having their applications processed may not hold a master’s degree, but he reiterated that the RCN had put in place some transitional arrangements for this group.
Up until December 2020, those nurses who are already working at an advanced level but do not have a full master’s degree are able to apply by providing a portfolio of evidence.
The main reason nurses said they wanted to become accredited was so they could be recognised for their role – and also the fact the RCN was offering a free annual training event for those on the programme, as well as assisting nurses with research opportunities, said Mr Paterson.
“There has always been this thing about advanced nurse practitioners – because it is not regulated anyone can use the title,” he noted.
He said that employers seemed positive about the new scheme and some had offered to pay the £275 credentialing fee on behalf of nurses. In places, accreditation had now been included on job descriptions for advanced posts as a “desirable” attribute.
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“Obviously there are some challenges – if a nurse were to prove they are practising at that advanced level and aren’t on the same pay band as their colleagues, that might cause a problem but that is more of an employer issue,” said Mr Paterson.
He noted that the RCN would advise nurses in this position to have a job evaluation.
When asked whether the new scheme would make nursing practice safer, he said: “Credentialing is part of the way to fill that regulatory gap, but only NMC can do that fully.
“The RCN is doing as much as it possibly can do drive up standards and to recognise them in the interim.”
Last week, a study by London South Bank University revealed that hundreds of unregistered care staff were working in NHS roles that had advanced or specialist nursing titles.
Researchers examined 17,960 specialist nursing posts between 2006 and 2016 within NHS trusts across the whole of the UK, finding 585 different job titles were in use.
They warned that this could pose a risk to patient safety and also undermined trust in the nursing profession and called for advanced nursing practice to be regulated.