Celebrating Nursing Associate Trainees

On 7th March 2019, Kathy Turner-Payne, Ward Manager at Thornford Park, and Sarah Giddings, Nursing Associate Trainee, Thornford Park attended an event celebrating the graduation of the first Thames Valley Nursing Associate Trainees. Here, they provide some information into the background of Nursing Associate Trainees and explain more about Sarah’s involvement.

NAT Sarah says:

Firstly let me introduce myself: my name is Sarah Giddings and I work at Thornford Park Hospital and have done for three years. In April 2017 I was given the opportunity to participate in a pilot course – the Nursing Associate degree.

Being a mature student scared me! I hadn’t done any academic work for at least 20 years and did not feel particularly confident in essay writing, however, I grabbed this opportunity and my journey commenced.

The aim of the Nursing Associate role is to bridge the gap between a health care assistant and a registered nurse. It is a generic course and students are from a variety of care settings. I attend university weekly where we learn clinical skills in the university’s simulation suite.

In two years we have obtained knowledge and skills relating to catheterisation, medication management and monitoring of vital signs plus lots more. We also work with the lecturers on the academic side, gaining knowledge on promoting holistic healthcare and well-being across a lifespan; case studies and leadership roles are just a few examples of essays written. I have grown so much during the course and now have the ability and skills required in academic writing. This will help in report writing in the future as well as further study.

On March 7th 2019 I attended a celebration event for Thames Valley Nursing Associate Trainees. The event was attended by representatives from various universities across the Thames Valley, As well as managers at Health Education England who designed the course, and representatives from the NMC.

This event celebrated how successful the pilot had been and how professionals are now starting to recognise the Nursing Associate role and how valuable the position will be within healthcare.

Being pilots, the NMC did not complete the standards of proficiency until October 2018 and the NMC code of conduct has now been updated to include Nursing Associates.

The Nursing Associate role will be regulated by the NMC and we will have a PIN, the same as Nurses.

What was highlighted to me from this event is how all the placement opportunities experienced in a variety of settings have enabled us to grow and develop, gaining new skills, knowledge and insight to grow as professionals. It was also highlighted how academically people have grown.

For me on a personal level, the journey has been a rollercoaster but I am extremely proud of how much I have achieved both professionally and personally. Being a mum, working full time and studying has been the biggest challenge of my life….but on the 26th April 2019 my course will be complete and my journey as a Nursing Associate will begin!

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Thornford Park for giving me this experience, especially my unit and ward manager who have supported me through thick and thin. I would absolutely recommend this course to Healthcare Assistants who want to grow and develop their skills in nursing.

– Sarah Giddings, Nursing Associate Trainee

Kathy says:

On 7th March I was invited to attend the celebration of the first cohort of the Thames Valley Nursing Associate Trainees at the Kassam Stadium in Oxford, who were just about to finish their training. In fact, this March saw the first Nursing Associates ever register at the NMC. These Nursing Associate Trainees were from the University of West London, Oxford Brookes University, Buckinghamshire New University and the University of Bedfordshire. One of my ward staff, Sarah Giddings, is a Nursing Associate Trainee (NAT), one of the first intakes and she is very soon about to be qualified. This was an evening of celebration organised to give her and her cohort recognition for their achievements. Sarah was one of the NATs from Thornford Park with a Mental Health background – many NATs start training from a variety of nursing areas.

It had been a challenging journey for the NATs in figuring out their path throughout their courses and placements as this role had been developed only recently. There was still some confusion about what a NAT was permitted to do. Legislation and accompanying guidelines were amended by the course leaders, not to mention policies (by their employers), as they were working their way through the course.  They are expected to attend university, go on placements, complete exams and course work and also make sure they do their required hours at their main workplace and placement so it is a struggle to find the time. On Headley ward, we have watched Sarah’s skills and knowledge expand over the last two years, and with that, her confidence too. She has worked hard to cope with the demands of the course which covers a wide range of subjects. This variety enables the Nursing Associate Trainee to work in many fields of care. She has realised that she has achieved so much now the course is in the final stages and is looking toward the final part of her journey.

Sarah met Sam Donahue, Senior Nurse Policy Manager from Health Education England (HEE) who promoted and supported the Nursing Associate additions to the Nursing workforce.

Sam Donahue gave an inspiring speech and answered questions from the floor. Sarah asked if there would be more focus on mental health in subsequent courses as she felt that could be improved and the reply was that there had been mental health content for educators and providers as well as the nursing associates to promote and take back with them what they needed in future courses, and that the course content would be continuously developed according to feedback.

The timeline of the new Nursing Associate role arriving into existence:
  • From October 2016 – the first 11 test sites were announced
  • January 2017, the secretary of state for Health accepted that Nursing Associates should be NMC regulated and the first 1000 NATs started
  • April 2017, 24 sites were selected for the next 1000 NATs to start
  • 2019 – Trainees are about to begin as qualified Nursing Associates

Sarah has said she is proud of her achievements and grateful for the support given to her in being able to do the Nursing Associate Trainee course and would recommend that healthcare staff who are seriously thinking of this to apply.

I would also urge nursing leaders and managers to support new Nursing Associates as part of the nursing workforce as they have faced some prejudice along the way. It’s up to leaders to explain to nursing staff what a nursing associate is, what they can do on the ward and make them an integrated and welcomed part of our diverse teams.

– Kathy Turner-Payne, Ward Manager



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