These Liverpool nurses of the future are the first in the UK to train under new scheme

A group of young people from Liverpool are among the first in the country to receive training as nursing associates, a new role designed to bridge the gap between more junior health care assistants (HCAs) and registered nurses in the NHS.


In the last year, Liverpool’s Aintree University Hospital has invested £1.7 million in ward staffing, which has seen an increase in the number of registered nurses and HCAs employed by the hospital, reducing its use of agency HCAs to almost zero.

The hospital has also used £850,000 of the Apprenticeship Levy to fund two-year nursing associate foundation degrees with Edge Hill University for more than 50 HCAs.

The new role is more advanced than a HCA but junior to a registered nurse. Qualified nursing associates can go on to train as registered nurses by putting their training towards a shortened nursing degree or completing a degree-level nursing apprenticeship.

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Dianne Brown, Chief Nurse at Aintree University Hospital, said: “We really welcome the introduction of the Nursing Associate role, which is another route into the profession that enables students to earn a salary as they learn at the same time as having an increased number of more qualified staff on our wards.

“Hospitals across the country are struggling to recruit qualified nurses so it’s great that we are able to grow our own and offer career progression to our HCAs who, for many reasons, perhaps didn’t feel nursing was for them until they’d got some hands-on experience on our wards.”

The duties of a nursing associate typically include clinical tasks such as cannulation and ECGs, recording blood pressure, temperature, breathing and pulse rates, checking vital signs and supporting patients and families with diagnoses and difficult news. They also provide an added level of assurance in monitoring patients on the ward and flagging any concerns or deteriorating patients to senior colleagues.

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Megan Cavanagh, 24, from Anfield started her nursing associate training last September after completing functional skills qualifications in Maths and English at Aintree. Prior to that she had worked as a HCA at Aintree for seven years. She was inspired to pursue a career in nursing after working at Zoe’s Place, a hospice for babies.

Megan said: “Eventually I want to become a registered nurse. I’ve always been told I’m very caring and my experience at Zoe’s Place just confirmed this is the career for me. Because I didn’t have the right qualifications I wasn’t able to apply for a nursing degree but Aintree has supported me with my functional skills qualifications, which has enabled me to train as a nursing associate. As part of that you are on rotation in different parts of the hospital so I get exposure to a lot of different scenarios which is great for developing my skills.”

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Rachel Lamb, 21, from Maghull worked as a HCA in orthopaedics before starting her training. She wants to follow in the footsteps of her family members who work in the health service.

Rachel said: “My mum, auntie and cousins are all nurses, so it’s something I’ve wanted to pursue as a career since I was little. I wasn’t able to fund a full nursing degree when I finished college, so I started work as a health care assistant. It’s great that I can now earn as I learn with the foundation degree and put that qualification towards a full nursing degree, which I hope to get in a year or two.”

Paul McArdle, 24, from West Derby, worked as a HCA in Aintree’s A&E department for 14 months before starting his training last year.

He said: “Previously I worked in a care home but wanted to develop my skills in a hospital-based role. Once I’ve completed by nursing associate training I’d hope to progress to a full nursing degree in about 12 months. I’m currently on placement on Ward 21, with diabetes and general medicine patients. The staff there are great and really supportive if I’ve ever got any questions.”


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