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Motivations, experiences and aspirations of trainee nursing associates in England: A qualitative study

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Background: The nursing associate role was developed in England in response to the 'Shape of Caring' review. It has been implemented to fulfil two aims; to bridge the gap between registered nurses and healthcare assistants, and to provide an alternative route into registered nursing in light of workforce shortages. Other high income countries deploy second level nurses within their healthcare systems, however the UK has a turbulent history with such roles. The previous state enrolled nurse was phased out in the 1990s, and more recently the assistant practitioner (AP) role has faced wide variation in titles, scope and pay. Little is known about those who have embarked on the new nursing associate training course and their experiences of the role. Methods: An exploratory qualitative study was undertaken using focus groups of trainee nursing associates to generate in-depth discussion about their motivations, experiences of training, and career aspirations. Three focus groups (n = 15) took place in December 2018 using a purposive sample of trainee nursing associates registered at a University in the North of England. Two researchers facilitated each group discussion at a time and place convenient for participants. The discussions were audio recorded, transcribed and data was analysed thematically. Results: This study found that trainee nursing associates are motivated by affordable, local, career development. During training they face challenges relating to clinical support, academic workload and uncertainty about future career opportunities. They experience role ambiguity both individually and across the wider organisation. Trainee nursing associates rely on broad support networks to build their occupational identity. Conclusions: The barriers and facilitators of trainee nursing associate personal development have implications for policy and practice relating to recruitment and retention. The results increase our understanding of this emerging role, and have informed the development of a larger longitudinal cohort study. Further research is required to evaluate the impact of this new role.




King, R., Ryan, T., Wood, E., Tod, A., & Robertson, S. (2020). Motivations, experiences and aspirations of trainee nursing associates in England: A qualitative study. BMC Health Services Research, 20(1).

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