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Registered nursing associates now at work across west Suffolk

Six new registered nursing associates trained by our Trust are now at work across west Suffolk, on inpatient wards and with community teams. This is an investment in a recently-developed NHS role for clinicians who work with healthcare support workers and registered nurses to deliver care. It is also a stepping stone to becoming a registered nurse.

The six are: Robyn Nixon, who is on ward G5 in the West Suffolk Hospital; Aaron Thompson on the Macmillan Unit; April Jones on ward G3; Rose Dennis, on Rosemary Ward at Newmarket Community Hospital; Stephanie Regan with the integrated neighbourhood team at Newmarket; and Sophie Jones who is with the Bury Town team.

Vicki Firman, clinical practice facilitator for apprenticeships, said: “Registered nursing associates (NAs) are a bridge between healthcare support workers (HCSW) or generic workers (GW) and registered nurses. They can release nurses to work with more complex patients as they have the skills to care for patients with stable, predictable need. For example, they can give B12 injections, perform catheterisation, undertake risk assessments and provide hands-on evidence-based care.”

Vicki said the role had come about as a result of the Lord Willis “Shape of Caring” review, which was focused on ensuring nurses and care assistants receive consistent high-quality education and training. “We have trained and supported these NAs through their whole journey. It is great to have seen these six develop and they are fantastic in practice. A great advantage is that this extra training has not left them with any student debt.

“Registered NAs can offer a real benefit to patients, giving them access to a highly-skilled workforce that can deliver the care they need. They support registered nurses and are role models for our support staff workforce - we know we have a cohort of skilled and compassionate support staff. NAs can stay as they are or go on to a further two years’ training and become a registered nurse. This role is something to aspire to, giving them the opportunity to develop and progress and for us to grow our own,” said Vicki.

Sophie Jones was a generic worker with the Bury Town integrated neighbourhood team for four years before embarking on the training to become a nursing associate, and now has that role in the team. “My goal is to become a nurse, and so I was excited to be given the opportunity to become a nursing associate,” she said. “It means continuity for many of the patients, as they know me and I already have their trust, but now I can provide them with increased care.”

Sophie sees patients in their own homes and in care homes, and the treatments she can now offer include catheterisation, wound care with a greater level of complexity, as well as being able to administer a wider range of medications including some injections. 

Aaron Thomson joined the hospital as a bank porter 13 years ago, before becoming a nursing assistant – working in a wide array of departments and falling in love with nursing. Aaron said: “As soon as I came into the hospital environment, I knew this is where I wanted to work for the foreseeable future. The team I work with are so supportive and when I started my journey towards becoming a nursing associate, they helped me so much.”

The training to become a nursing associate leads to a foundation degree and includes both clinical placements and academic study. Sophie undertook four varied placements, and had time for protected learning. She also undertook theoretical study at the University of Suffolk in Ipswich. She hopes to do the ‘top up’ training to become a registered nurse in the next few years.

Executive chief nurse Sue Wilkinson said: “We are delighted to welcome these six nursing associates to our services in both our hospitals and community teams in west Suffolk. This is really exciting time for nursing and healthcare, with innovations such as the introduction of the NA role allowing us to offer more of our staff the chance to develop their careers. We know these six colleagues will be able to draw on their enhanced skills and learning to provide the high quality, compassionate care we strive to offer our patients.”

There will be opportunities to follow in these colleagues’ footsteps with nursing associate training and apprenticeships, which will be advertised later in the year. If you have any queries contact victoria.firman@wsh.nhs.uk.

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Left: Sophie Jones, Right: Aaron Thomson

Left: Sophie Jones, Right: Aaron Thomson