Celebrations took place at Devon hospitals this week as some of the county’s frontline nursing staff are among the first to qualify as Nursing Associates.
Introduced alongside other roles to bridge the gap between Healthcare Assistants and Registered Nurses, the Nursing Associate role offers a new entry point into a fully registered nursing career. At the end of the two year course, staff can either continue studying to become fully qualified registered nurses by taking a shortened nursing degree of two years rather than three, or continue to work as registered Nursing Associates within Devon organisations.
As one of 11 first wave Nursing Associate pilot sites, Devon is the only Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (STP) site selected and the pilots nationally have been funded by Health Education England (HEE).
The Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust, Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust and Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust all held individual celebration events this week while University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust and Livewell Southwest teamed up for a joint event.
Each Trust allowed the opportunity for the newly qualified Nursing Associates to reflect on their roles, hear from senior nursing staff about the difference the role has made in their area and to receive their certificates and organisational badges. Towards the end of the afternoon, Nursing Associates from across the STP joined together via Skype to hear from Samantha Donohue, Senior Nurse Manager of Transformation from Health Education England.
Out of Devon’s 69 Trainee Nursing Associates who began their training in January 2017, 62 have completed the programme and are now able to apply to join the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) register. Of the trainees who have completed the course, 20 are continuing in education to become registered nurses and a further 38 will be continuing to work as registered Nursing Associates across the Devon STP footprint.
Em Wilkinson-Brice, Deputy Chief Executive/Chief Nurse at the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust, the Devon pilot’s lead organisation, and Chair of the Devon STP Nursing Associate Programme Board, said: “The Nursing Associate role is a really important new role which will work closely with Assistant Practitioners, Healthcare Assistants, Registered Nurses and others to provide excellent, compassionate care to our patients. I’m extremely proud of their achievements and of the difference they have already made to patients, families and staff. It has been a pleasure to chair the Devon Nursing Associate board – collaborating across Devon has undoubtedly led to the success of this pilot.”
Dawn Slater, Director of People and Professionalism, Livewell Southwest, said: “The Trainee Nursing Associate pilot has been an exciting and innovative introduction to a new nursing role within Livewell Southwest. It’s been amazing to see our trainees develop and flourish, and they have seized the opportunity with determination and real commitment. They’ve been incredible advocates for the role and we’re hugely proud of them.
“It’s been really valuable for everyone involved, and I’m grateful to the managers, mentors and team members who have supported the programme and the trainees and made this such a positive experience. Our Trainee Nursing Associates have developed their knowledge and skills and this coupled with their compassion have produced a professional and dynamic addition to our nursing workforce.”
Bev Allingham, Deputy Chief Nurse at University Hospitals Plymouth said: “We are delighted to have been part of this exciting and forward thinking development programme for Nursing Associates and it has been a very positive experience being part of a wider STP pilot. There has been shared learning and improvement across Devon with overwhelmingly positive feedback from Nursing Associates and our wider colleagues. We are already on cohort three and planning further cohorts as part of creating and growing a sustainable workforce. It’s wonderful to see the contribution Nursing Associates bring to our local health economy and directly to our patients.”
Darryn Allcorn, Chief Nurse at Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust (NDHT), said: “I’d like to congratulate all our Nursing Associates on this momentous occasion. They have worked really hard over the past couple of years and have proved themselves to be extremely caring and competent people, a valuable part of our workforce in northern Devon.
“During their time as Trainee Nursing Associates they have made a real difference to the lives of our patients and their loved ones, and been a great support to their colleagues. We’re looking forward to seeing how our Nursing Associates develop further, as well as our second and third groups of Trainee Nursing Associates.”
Jane Viner, Chief Nurse at Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust, said: “It has been wonderful to celebrate with our first cohort of Nursing Associates who have now completed and passed their two years of training.
“In partnership with other organisations across Devon, we were delighted to be a part of the national pilot for the new Nursing Associate role. It is widely recognised that nursing recruitment can be a challenge. However, this new role provides an exciting opportunity for health and care support workers to develop in their careers, earning a regular salary at the same time as completing studies.
“The Nursing Associates are a welcome addition to our skilled and caring nursing workforce and we would like to wish all of the new Nursing Associates all the very best in their new position.”