Nursing associates are the most controversial topic in the profession right now.
Some people think that they are the solution to the workforce crisis, others fear they are nursing on the cheap, many worry they will be used to substitute nurses and others feel that is a moot point while there are over 40,000 vacancies for registered nurses at present.
Views inside the first associate training camps are just as mixed – as revealed in our exclusive report. Because of the nature of the way the role is being piloted and rolled out, there are currently no finalised education standards in place from the Nursing and Midwifery Council.
As a result, there are mixed curricula and a lack of standardisation at present. I worry that these could become confusing once these nursing associates enter the employment market.
For example, taking one of the most thorny issues surrounding this role, some universities are teaching controlled drug administration and some are not – a topic covered in detail in our exclusive interview with the author of a key review of the nursing associate training programme.
It could be left up to individual employers to decide whether these new additions to their workforce should be able to administer them.
”Mixed attitudes persist in the way the new role is being received by existing nursing colleagues”
You can see how it might cause confusion, as this is a problem the profession already faces with advanced nurse roles.
When the initial cohort of nursing associates are ready to enter the workforce in 2019, the employers that trained them will no doubt hope to retain them.
But what if they want to go elsewhere – potentially, to a trust that trained their associates to do more complex tasks? Nursing associates might be willing but will they be competent enough if they have not received adequate training?
Meanwhile, mixed attitudes persist in the way the new role is being received by existing nursing colleagues. Some registered nurses are enthusiastic about gaining an extra pair of hands on their shift, while others are critical of the role.
Many trusts feel it will prove a useful support role as well as potentially creating a new route towards entering registered nursing itself. However, it is confusing and needs clarification before we go too far along creating a patchwork quilt of skills that will further confuse and divide the profession.