The experiences and expectations of trainee nursing associates

Identifying the different healthcare settings and specialities supporting the trainee nursing associate role.

Investigating the role of trainee nursing associates


Research background

The nursing associate role was introduced by Health Education in England in 2017, with the aim to bridge the gap and create a new tier between health care assistants/support workers and registered nurses, to address the shortages of registered nurses and to provide an alternative route to access the registered nurse programme. 

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) are the official regulator for nursing associates. Trainee nursing associates (TNAs) complete a two-year programme, which requires them to be exposed to multi-disciplinary working and is designed to give them the ability to work in a variety of settings with a range of population groups and conditions. 

The programme consists of one day a week studying at university, one day a week in placement, and the remaining hours in their usual workplace, although with protected hours for further learning. The nursing associate national training programme contains eight key domains: 

  1. Professional values and parameters of practice 
  2. Person-centred approaches to care 
  3. Delivery care 
  4. Communication and interpersonal skills 
  5. Team working and leadership 
  6. Duty of care, candour, equality and diversity 
  7. Supporting learning and assessment in practice  
  8. Research, development and innovation 

An initial evaluation of the training and development of the nursing associate programme was commissioned by Health Education England, which identified the impact of nursing associates within clinical practice and the clear benefits and challenges (Vanson and Beckett, 2018).

Benefits included: 

  • TNAs had moved away from a task-based role, towards a role that is more patient and outcomes-focused;
  • TNAs were exchanging skills and practice with colleagues in different settings; therefore, reportedly leading to immediate improvements in the quality of care provided;  
  • TNAs showed an increased assertiveness and self-belief on placements and sought seeking out learning opportunities;  
  • TNAs new skills and knowledge enabled them to bring additional capacity to their team and workplace.  

However, challenges included:

  • TNAs were not always sure about what tasks they could and could not do due to a lack of parameters for this new role;  
  • TNAs were on occasion still being viewed as healthcare support workers;  
  • TNAs reported some staff and colleagues felt threatened by this new role (Vanson and Beckett, 2018).  

Research aims

The aim of this study is to identify the different healthcare settings and specialities supporting the nursing associate role and to explore trainee nursing associates’ experiences and expectations, both present and future. 

The objectives of this study are: 

  • Identify the different healthcare settings and specialities supporting implementing the nursing associate programme 
  • To begin to understand the perspective of TNAs regarding their role, experiences, and expectations, both present and future  
  • Development of a questionnaire to explore the role of nursing associates, experiences, and expectations 
  • Identify similarities and differences of the nursing associate role across different healthcare settings

How has the research been carried out?

A sequential mixed methods study, collecting both qualitative and quantitative data, qualitative data will be collected through the implementation of focus groups with TNAs, these will be constructed to bring together TNAs from similar healthcare settings to explore their role, experiences and expectations, both present and future.

Qualitative data will be analysed to understand TNAs role, experiences, and expectations, which will inform the development of a quantitative questionnaire.

All TNAs at BCU will then be provided with the opportunity to complete the questionnaire, this approach will support the understanding of TNAs role, experiences, and expectations on a larger scale.

Outcomes and impact

The results and methods applied in this study will be applicable, informative, and useful for all involved in supporting and delivering the nursing associate programme, and the development of this role across different health specialities.