The Registered Nursing Associate (RNA) is a role developed to bridge the gap between healthcare support workers and registered nurses. It was recognised that there was a need for registered professionals able to implement care while enabling registered nurses to focus on devising care plans and working with the most complex patients. The professional registration with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) is a key feature which allows RNAs to be accountable for their own practice and responsible for their own learning, development and maintenance of competence.
The first RNAs qualified back in 2017. We have since supported more than a 100 trainee Nursing Associates. We have been able to support organisations across the system with the provision of apprenticeship levy to pay for tuition fees. Further funding from Health Education England is used to support the Trainee Nursing Associate with equipment, travel and other costs, as well as supporting the employer to ‘backfill’ their previous position.
Becoming an RNA is part of a career pathway that can allow a healthcare support worker to become an RNA and onward to become a registered nurse. RNAs are able to ‘top-up’ their studies by completing up to two-years’ further study through the traditional or Registered Nurse Degree Apprenticeship course to progress and qualify as a registered nurse. So, the Nursing Associate job is very much an aspirational role which opens opportunities for learning, development and progression.
It was clear through the course of our work that RNAs do not have a peer network and many organisations needed to develop their own mandatory training and learning opportunities. We realised that the holistic nature of the course meant that RNAs wanted to learn more about areas of practice they did not use in their day job.
Registered Nursing Associate Forum
Fast forward to December 2021 when we held our first RNA Forum session. The forum now meets virtually every two months. Each session has a focus, which comes from the RNAs themselves and provides Continuing Professional Development facilitated by the project lead Victoria Wilkins. We also have funding for expert speakers to provide even richer learning.
The forum is open to any RNA who works within the Humber and North Yorkshire region and provides a ‘safe’ space where they can talk freely, learn, share and develop with their peers. Topics for discussion have included revalidation, working and communicating with children, mental health in children, having difficult conversations and end of life care. The next session will focus on stress awareness, compassion fatigue and burnout, something that is very important to be aware of and as part of self-care for health and wellbeing.
Going forwards, in December 2022 the Forum will celebrate its first year and we will be holding a face-to-face conference, which will have a variety of speakers from across the system talking about their role and journey to registration and viewpoints from employers and universities. There will also be some awards and we really look forward to meeting face-to-face and continuing the good work of the forum to support and grow our RNAs in Humber and North Yorkshire.