Nursing Associates

Nursing Associates: who are they?

Nursing associate is a new role within the nursing team. Nursing associates work with healthcare support workers and registered nurses to deliver care for patients and the public. It is also a stepping stone to becoming a registered nurse.

Working life 

Nursing associates work across all four fields of nursing: adult, children’s, mental health, and learning disability. Your skills and responsibilities will vary, depending on the care setting you work in. You’ll need to demonstrate the values and behaviours of the NHS Constitution.  

Your duties are likely to include:  

  • undertaking clinical tasks including venepuncture and ECGs 
  • supporting individuals and their families and carers when faced with unwelcome news and life-changing diagnoses 
  • performing and recording clinical observations such as blood pressure, temperature, respirations and pulse 
  • discussing and sharing information with registered nurses on a patients’ condition, behaviour, activity and responses  
  • ensuring the privacy, dignity and safety of individuals is maintained at all times 
  • recognising issues relating to safeguarding vulnerable children and adults  

Entry requirements 

To begin your training as a nursing associate, you’ll need GCSEs grade 9 to 4 (A to C) in maths and English, or Functional Skills Level 2 in maths and English. Some employers will also ask for a level 3 qualification. You'll also need to show that you can study for a foundation degree level and complete the Nursing Associate Apprenticeship programme.

Trainee nursing associate places are usually advertised on NHS Jobs but some places are available through direct application to universities. Applicants accepted onto university courses will need to fund their own training.

Your training 

You'll undertake academic learning one day a week and work-based learning the rest of the week. You'll be employed in a healthcare setting such as an acute, community or mental health hospital, care home or hospice but also gain experience in other settings. This will mean travelling to placements and working a mix of shifts.  

It is very important to plan and manage the competing demands of your job role, study and placements. You'll develop an understanding of all elements of nursing and caring for individuals with conditions such as dementia, mental ill health and learning disabilities/difficulties.

Career development

Once you’ve finished your training, you’ll have the knowledge, understanding, skills, attitudes and behaviours to work as a nursing associate. Qualified nursing associates can also go on to train as a registered nurse by putting their training towards a shortened nursing degree or registered nurse degree apprenticeship (RNDA). 

Your nursing associate training may shorten a registered nurse degree apprenticeship to 2 years.   

To find out more about the apprenticeship route, including how to apply, speak with your line manager, education team or apprenticeship lead. Your employer may want you to complete a year working as a nursing associate before you progress to registered nurse training. 

"The university part of the nursing associate training allowed me to take on more responsibilities and will provide me with career progression – something I never thought I’d achieve!"

Read Martyn's story


The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) is responsible for registering and regulating nursing associates. 

Source Content 
Further Information to becoming a Nursing Associate 


Direct entry – fees set by local colleges and universities

Apprenticeship - Course fees are paid by the employer

Time Taken

Up to 2 years to qualify as Nursing Associate

Entry Requirments

GCSE English & Maths grade A-C or recognised equivalent - Support to achieve English & maths

Apprenticeship - Employment with healthcare organization offering apprenticeship degree programme

Health clearance

Police clearance – UK DBS


Trainee Nursing Associate event

Leanne Richards Nursing associate in training (HEE )

Stuart Woodward - Nursing Assistant and NHS apprentice

Other information

Skills for Health – approved apprenticeship in Nursing 

Nursing Notes – Nursing Associate apprenticeship

Institute of apprenticeships standard

Why do we need nursing associates?

The nursing associate role was introduced in response to the Shape of Caring Review (Health Education England, 2015), which aimed to ensure that nurses and care assistants receive consistent, high-quality education and training that supports high quality care. This review identified three specific problems which led to the recommendation for
a new role, namely:
1. A lack of training and development opportunities for care assistants, who were providing over 60
per cent of hands-on care.
2. An ageing population with more complex needs, requiring nurses to delegate fundamental
aspects of care so they can focus on more complex tasks.
3. The nursing shortage and need to widen access to the profession.

The nursing associate role was introduced in January 2017 through the Health Education England
(HEE) trainee nursing associates programme. It aims to:
• support the career progression of care assistants
• enable nurses to undertake more advanced roles
• increase the supply of nurses by providing a progression route into graduate level nursing.

What are the benefits to my organisation?

Employers have invested in the nursing associate role as part of wider workforce planning and skills mix transformation. An independent evaluation of the first two waves of the nursing associates programme revealed a number of benefits arising from the introduction of the role, including:

1. improved service delivery and patient care
2. improved staff retention through career progression
3. the ability to ‘grow your own’ nursing workforce
4. investing in a tried and tested training programme, accredited by the Nursing and
Midwifery Council (NMC).

Why employ a nursing associate? Benefits for health and care employers

More Documentation & Links

Nursing Associate Employer Info

Standards of proficiency for nursing associates

Newly Registered Nurse Associate Guide