J Clin Nurs. 2021 Jan 26. doi: 10.1111/jocn.15675. Online ahead of print.
AIM: The study aimed to establish the views of a range of stakeholders about their experiences of the newly implemented nursing associate role in England and its potential to contribute to patient care.
BACKGROUND: Second-level nursing roles are increasingly used internationally within the healthcare workforce. In response to registered nurse workforce deficits, a new nursing associate role has been introduced in England to augment care provided by registered nurses and enable career progression of support workers.
DESIGN: Qualitative descriptive design.
METHODS: Semi-structured interviews and a focus group were conducted with a range of healthcare professionals in a large inner-city acute secondary care healthcare organisation in England. Interviews were guided by the Consolidated Framework for Implementation Research and analysed using Framework Analysis. The study was reported according to COREQ guidelines.
RESULTS: 33 healthcare professionals were interviewed - directors of nursing, ward managers, nursing associates and multidisciplinary team members. Participants perceived the role was broadly adaptable to different healthcare settings and provided a positive professional development mechanism for healthcare support workers. Managers felt training commitments made implementing the role complex and costly. Participants argued the role had limitations, particularly with intravenous medicine management. Implementation was impeded by rapid pace and consequent lack of clear communication and planning.
CONCLUSIONS: The nursing associate role was perceived as an inclusive pathway into nursing but with limitations when working with high-acuity patients. Further evaluation is needed to investigate how the role has embedded over time.
RELEVANCE TO CLINICAL PRACTICE: The role should be seen as both a stepping-stone into registered nursing positions and valued as part of the nursing workforce. Consideration must be given to how the role can be safely implemented in different settings. Findings have relevance to healthcare leaders internationally, who continue to work in a climate of economic pressure and staffing shortages.