Nursing associates

 See our registered nurses area for up to date information and guidance on COVID-19. 

A nursing associate is a new member of the nursing family who provides care for people in health and social care settings. It has been created to bridge the skills gap between care assistants and registered nurses. This role is only being used and regulated in England. 

A nursing associate is not a substitute for a registered nurse. The intention is that by employing a nursing associate, who is registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) having completed an approved training course, it can free up the time of a registered nurse to work at the upper limits of their registration, focussing on more complex care needs and leadership.

Key points:

  • this role is registered by the Nursing and Midwifery Council
  • a nursing associate is educated to foundation degree level, is registered and has a PIN number
  • a nursing associate is accountable for their own practice
  • once registered, a nursing associate can undertake continuous professional development to extend their role to suit their working environment.

We are supporting the sector in increasing the number of nursing associates being trained and employed in social care settings. We are working closely with Health Education England (HEE) and other key stakeholders.

Emily Burton recently graduated as a nursing associate and is now working in social care. The NMC has produced a case study about Emily where she shares her experience of becoming a newly-qualified and registered nursing associate. 

Hear from nursing associates

Discover what a nursing associate is, how it fits into the nursing family and what the benefits are of employing a nursing associate. It features people from the Lincolnshire partnership who were part of the first test site, and there are now three registered nursing associates in Lincolnshire care homes.


Our additional short films also discuss the nursing associate role and its benefits from their different perspectives.

  • Emily Gillott, a registered nursing associate
  • Lisa McFarlane, registered manager at Drovers Call Care Home
  • Adam Knights, managing director of Knights Care
  • Carolyn Nice, assistant director at Lincolnshire County Council
  • Melanie Weatherly, chair of Lincolnshire Care Association
  • Mark Turton, workforce development manager at Lincolnshire Care Association.



Get in touch

To speak to someone about the nursing associate role and programme, please either email or call Wendy Leighton, Project Manager at Skills for Care on 07442 508024.


Nursing associates will have a foundation degree and pre-registration training typically involves two years of higher education, including placements to gain experience across the four fields of nursing – adult, child, learning discability, mental health and within a range of different health and care settings.

The original cohorts of nursing associates trained as part of test sites via the Health Education England programme. However, anyone starting on a programme after 26 July 2019 will start on an NMC approved programme.

There are two ways that the programme can be delivered and funded, and they are:

Apprenticeship - this is a work-based programme where the student has to be an employee (existing or new). The student is working during the training period as an apprentice nursing associate. They will be required to attend learning days, usually at a university, and undertake placements in different areas to ensure they meet the programme requirements. When the apprentice is not attending learning days or placements, they are still an apprentice nursing associate and their time is protected for learning.

Each programme will be designed to meet local needs and many areas have continued the partnerships that developed in the original test phase and are a good starting point. This programme is funded by the apprenticeship levy.

During 2019-20 there are additional funds available from HEE to support the embedding of the role and development of your workplace as a learning placement, this is available to all employers. Up to date information regarding the funding available can be found by contacting your local HEE office or talking to the Skills for Care locality manager for your area

Full time ‘self-funded’ route - many universities are now offering the pre-registration nursing associate programme as a full-time option, similar to how pre-registration nursing is delivered. In this case, the trainee nursing associate is a student of the university, not an employee. Fees for the programme will be charged to the student. As a social care employer, one way that you can get involved with the new role is to offer placement opportunities for pre-registration nursing associates.

Supporting in the work place - in order to effectively support the student nursing associate, whether be they're a full time supernumerary student or an employee, the work place has to be receptive to learning and have registered staff who are willing and prepared to act as supervisors. We're in the process of developing a guide on how to develop effective learning environments. We'll share this with you once it's ready. 

Once students have completed their training, they must apply for registration with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) before they can be employed and practise as a nursing associate. The register is now open

The standards of proficiency set out what all nursing associates will know and be able to do when they join the NMC register. All nursing associates must meet these standards in order to be considered by the NMC as capable of safe and effective nursing associate practice. Please remember that the standards show the starting point for a registered nursing associate, many will develop additional skills and competencies to suit their working environment as they grow into the role.

Like other regulated professionals, nursing associates can continue to train and develop as part of their career pathway, and will be subject to re-validation in the same way as all other NMC registrants.

There are already over 1500 nursing associates on the NMC register working in a wide range of settings. One way to interact with this new role, could be to consider workforce planning to incorporate the nursing associate role, agree a job specification and advertise the post.

Employers should consider employing an apprentice nursing associate or offering placements to full time students. This is a great opportunity to offer career progression for existing staff as well as a means of recruiting individuals motivated to train.

If you are part of a large national organisation with multiple sites spread across the country, there are a few options. 

Over the past few months, we've started to establish a community of practice to support the development and uptake of the nursing associate role in social care settings. Through sharing experiences, successes and challenges, innovation and solutions we can learn together as we seek to train and employ nursing associates as part of the nursing workforce in this sector. If you'd like to find out more about this please email

We have a new newsletter called Nursing News which is full of all the latest news and developments about nursing in social care. It aims to provide insight into some of the nursing related activity that Skills for Care is both involved in, and aware of, across the country. You can subscribe to receive it straight to your inbox by completing the form below. You can unsubscribe at any time.