Ever since we broke the story on the nursing associate role, people have asked what Nursing Times’ position is on the issue.
Let me clarify where we stand on the issue. This role should not be used to substitute registered nurses. All the evidence suggests that registered nurses improve patient outcomes, safety and experience. – But if the role is a substitute for anything it must be for untrained healthcare assistants.
And I disagree that nursing associates will be better than registered nurses because they care more than graduate nurses who are “too clever to care”. I loathe the argument that compassion and competence are mutually exclusive. They aren’t.
I went to a great event organised by recruitment consultancy Liquid Personnel last week, where those in charge of hiring health professionals, including nurses, for care homes, hospices and other organisations, discussed manifold challenges in this sector.
One person contended that nurses are arguably less academically trained than chartered accountants and yet accountancy hires huge numbers of non-graduate apprentices.
A registered nurse pointed out that apprentice accountants can’t kill you if they get their numbers wrong, but nursing associates doing drug calculations could. She argued that education and training for all involved in nursing is essential for safety.
I am for the new role if it leads to more and better training of healthcare assistants, and sees them acquire new skills that will help both patients and stressed-out, overworked registered nurses – and gives them some career development into the bargain.
If the government’s plan is to introduce nursing associates to get rid of registered nurses and make care provision cheaper, ministers are in for a shock and more scandals like Mid Staffs.
Nursing associates will need proper training and supervision to ensure they have the right skills – and that will cost money. There is no avoiding an investment in those providing care.
Patients need well-trained nursing staff. It is vital that those taking on the new nursing associate role not only know how to provide safe patient care but also when to ask for support from registered nurses. If the government doesn’t plan on providing appropriate training for them, nursing associates won’t be clever enough to care. And that’s far more worrying.