A new role is to join the nursing family. The nursing associate position has been given the rubber stamp by the chief nursing officer for England, who publicly approved its introduction on the NHS England website last week.
She says: “The role is designed to enhance the quality of personalised care, strengthening the support available to registered nursing staff and reducing the reliance and dependency on registered nurses to undertake elements of care that others can be trained to understand and do.”
This is a role that has divided opinion more bitterly than any other issue, and that is in a year when we find ourselves with no shortage of issues in nursing over which to argue.
”This is a role that has divided opinion more bitterly than any other issue”
Much of the argument against the role has arisen through fear that it will be used to substitute graduate nurses. It was described by the outgoing head of nursing at Unison Gail Adams as “nursing on the cheap” at a recent round table at our Team Leaders’ Congress earlier this month.
I can sympathise with her view.
But isn’t that a moot point right now? While many directors of nursing are crying out for registered nurses to fill their vacancies and struggling to provide care safely, you can’t really substitute what isn’t there. And right now there aren’t enough nurses, and safety and quality are being put at risk.
”This role has the belief and support of the government and nursing’s professional lead in England”
A solution, call it a quick fix if you like, was needed. This role has the belief and support of the government and nursing’s professional lead in England. Now it’s time to make sure it isn’t used to erode the graduate profession.
What this profession and its leaders must do is keep a careful eye on what happens now. If the government starts hoodwinking the public into thinking nursing associates are registered nurses, then we have a problem. If trust finance directors start pushing for more nursing associates and fewer registered nurses to keep the pay bill low, then we have a problem.
There has never been a more important time to articulate the value of the registered nurse. And all those in the profession – and definitely those leading it – must do that to protect and preserve the graduate role.