What is a nursing associate?

Nursing Associates work as a vital part of the wider nursing team with Healthcare Support Workers and Registered Nurses. The fundamental focus of the role is to deliver hands-on, person-centred care as part of the nursing team.

There may be opportunities for further development in this role or it may  also be a stepping stone to becoming a registered nurse if you decide to follow this route.

What would my responsibilities be as a nursing associate?

Your duties will vary depending on the clinical setting you work in but some of your responsibilities are likely to include:

  • performing and recording clinical observations such as taking people’s blood pressure, temperature, and pulses
  • discussing and sharing information with registered nurses on a patient service user’s condition, behaviour, activity and responses
  • undertaking clinical tasks like venepuncture (puncturing veins as part of a medical procedure, for example to take a blood sample) and undertaking wound dressings.
  • supporting individuals and their families and carers when faced with unwelcome news and life-changing diagnoses
  • ensuring the privacy, dignity and safety of individuals is maintained at all times
  • recognising issues relating to safeguarding vulnerable children and adults

You can read more in the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s standards of proficiency for nursing associates.

What is the difference between a nursing associate and a registered nurse?

Nursing Associates are members of the nursing team who have gained a foundation degree, typically involving two years of higher education. Once you qualify as a nursing associate you can undertake further education and training to become a registered nurse by studying for a shortened nursing degree or nursing degree apprenticeship. This role in practice bridges the gap between a healthcare support worker and a registered nurse and a members of different registers with the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

What is the difference between a nursing associate and a health and care assistant?

Nursing associates provide care alongside both registered nurses and care assistants as part of a wider nursing team. The role is designed to help bridge the gap between health and care assistants and registered nurses. Nursing associates spend two years training for the role and are regulated by the Nursing and Midwifery Council. Nursing associates contribute to the core work of nursing, freeing up registered nurses to focus on more complex clinical care.


What health and care settings can you work in?

Nursing associates work in a wide variety of different settings, providing care for people with physical, mental, cognitive and behavioural care needs, those living with dementia, the elderly and for people at the end of their life. They care for people in their own home, in the community or hospital or in any health care setting.

How do I find out if there are any trainee places in my area?

Currently, most nursing associate training programmes are being delivered through the apprenticeship route. As well as from the general population trainees can be recruited from existing staff, such as Healthcare Support Workers or if you are interested in starting a new career in healthcare as a Trainee Nursing Associate, vacancies are advertised via Trac and NHS Jobs

Please note that vacancies are also available in primary care (such as GP practices) and in social care (such as care homes). Please check with local employers, such as local authorities, or search on the Department of Work and Pensions’ ‘find a job’ website and other job boards.

Will my training take place in a hospital?

If you are on an apprenticeship, you’ll be employed in a health or social care setting such as a general or mental health hospital, GP practice, care home, hospice or community-based service. You will also gain experience in other health and care settings and situations by travelling to different placements and working a mix of shifts.

If you are on a self-funded or direct entry course you will spend time on a university or college campus as well as gain practical experience in a range of healthcare settings. Please note that you will have to fund your own study.

Can I go on to become a registered nurse after I finish my training?

Yes you can. The nursing associate role although a stand-alone role, also provides a progression route into graduate level nursing, which means your training counts towards a shortened nursing degree or degree-level nurse apprenticeship. Visit Health Careers to find out more about training as a registered nurse.

What qualification will I receive at the end of my training?

Trainee nursing associates will gain a foundation degree at the end of their training.

Do I have to study in a classroom?

Nursing associate training is a mixture of hands on practical experience (learning in practical/clinical environment) and learning theory which may take place on university or college campus, this may involve some classroom based learning, clinical skills training and simulation based learning.

Is this an apprenticeship?

The apprenticeship is one route into becoming a nursing associate. You can choose to do an apprenticeship, which means you can earn while you learn, or alternatively you can apply direct to university and fund your own course. Find out more about the two routes

What is registration/regulation?

The nursing associate role in England is regulated by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). The NMC are the professional regulator of nurses, midwives in the UK and nursing associates in England. Their work is to ensure these professionals have the knowledge and skills to provide consistent, quality care that keeps people safe. The NMC sets education standards that professionals must achieve to practise in the UK.

What is the difference between a trainee nursing associate and a nursing associate?

A trainee nursing associate is someone who is in training on an approved programme. Because nursing associate is a registered title, you can only call yourself a nursing associate once you have joined the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s register – up until that point you are a trainee nursing associate.

If I don’t have the right qualifications, what can I do?

If you do not have the right qualifications, you will be asked to sit a numeracy and literacy assessment as part of the recruitment process. We recommend that you prepare for this assessment and, if you are employed, ask your employer to support you with this. Most education providers will request that you then achieve a level 2 literacy and numeracy qualification before you start the programme.

If you need to undertake a course to help you meet the maths and English standards, you should either ask your employer for help with finding a course or contact your local further education college

Functional Skills training and examination is free to any learner who does not hold maths and/or English GCSE at C or above (or equivalent).

What qualification/grades/experience do I need to become a trainee nursing associate?

To begin your training as a nursing associate, you’ll need GCSEs grade 9 to 4 (A to C) or equivalent in maths and English, or Functional Skills Level 2 in maths and English. You will also need to demonstrate your ability to study to level 5 foundation degree level.