How to become a nursing associate (with definition)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 12 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

When working in the health care industry, every role is as important as the next. Each employee of a hospital supports each other, providing high-quality care and services for patients with a range of different illnesses and conditions. Nursing associates support services all across a hospital, so becoming a nursing associate takes a lot of time and effort. In this article, we discuss what a nursing associate is, how to become a nursing associate and some of the most important skills for a nursing associate in the workplace.

What is a nursing associate?

A nursing associate is a member of staff within a nursing team. Nursing associates deliver care for patients and members of the public, which involves conducting standard clinical tasks, supporting patients and families through difficult times and completing clinical tests on patients. Tasks vary day by day depending on the specific needs of the hospital and its patients.

Nursing associate is a relatively new role that many people have before becoming fully registered nurses. Nursing associates follow a strict set of values and behaviours that protect vulnerable patients and individuals seeking support from medical professionals. The role entails a varying schedule, with working hours at night, early mornings, evenings and weekends. This ensures that their organisation has enough staff to support all of its patients throughout the day. Nursing associates register with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) before taking on the role.

Related: How much does a nursing associate make? And how to earn more

How to become a nursing associate

Here's how to become a nursing associate in five steps:

1. Complete school

The first step in becoming a nursing associate is completing your school-age education. This is an important step in the process, as universities require a standard of education for each candidate on a degree course. Universities usually ask for passing grades at GCSE in maths and English at the very least, with some employers requesting a Level 3 qualification as an alternative. Consider completing GCSE and A-level subjects relating to nursing, such as biology or health and social care. Each of these provides more insight into the medical profession and benefits your university application.

Completing education is beneficial for more reasons than demonstrating a base level of competence. For those without a preference for academia, completing school demonstrates a strong level of stamina and commitment to completing tasks that people struggle with. Nursing is a profession requiring a significant amount of attention to detail and focus. Finishing your time in school, especially as someone without any interest in formal learning, demonstrates some of the personal characteristics that universities look for in candidates.

Related: How to write a university personal statement in 4 steps

2. Complete a nursing associate degree

Completing a nursing associate degree is the next stage in the process. This differs from a standard nursing degree, as the two positions are distinct from one another in their responsibilities and specific tasks. Complete thorough research when finding the degree you apply for and ensure that you choose the right degree for the career you're interested in. When applying for universities, try to research the area and its lecturers. In particular, check whether the lecturers' main interests and areas of expertise align with the areas of nursing that you're most interested in.

A nursing associate degree is typically split between classroom learning and building experience in a practical hospital environment. Nursing associates work in all four different fields of nursing. These are adult nursing, children's nursing, mental health nursing and supporting those with learning disabilities. Throughout nursing associate training, candidates learn the right skills for supporting each of these areas of nursing. Practical experience comes through placements at local hospitals and medical facilities. The specific facility depends on the university and its connections with the local health care authorities.

Related: What are the most popular undergraduate health care degrees?

3. Consider volunteering

Throughout your studies, consider developing your skills as a nurse by participating in volunteer schemes. There are various volunteering opportunities available for someone training as a nursing associate. Nursing associates have the opportunity to provide medical support at local youth events, visit groups and teach about their jobs or complete health and safety forms with schools for trips. Volunteer in an environment you enjoy and have a personal investment in. This means you have a higher chance of enjoying your time in the position and staying in your voluntary role throughout your training.

Nursing associates play an integral role in ensuring the health of members of the community, and volunteering is an ideal opportunity for a nursing associate to learn more about their local community's interests and key figures. Spending time as a volunteer is also ideal for the job application process. Organisations hire members of staff with a high level of selflessness and a focus on putting others first. Volunteering is an ideal opportunity to spend your time in a fun way that employers see as a valuable addition to a CV.

Related: How to volunteer in your community (plus benefits)

4. Register with The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC)

Register with the NMC as a nursing associate upon completing your training. The NMC is the organisation that regulates the profession of nursing. They keep a register of nurses, midwives and health visitors, ensuring that everyone working in the profession completes their tasks at a high standard. Working in a nursing role, whether in the public or private sector, relies on having membership in the NMC. This reassures employers of your high working standards and qualifications.

In most cases, your educational institution refers you to the NMC, declaring that you meet the standards of the council, have enough experience working in the health sector and have enough classroom learning time. From this point, you nominate a registered nurse as a referee that confirms your character and you pay the annual registration fee. The council reviews applications within ten working days following receipt of your documents. At the end of the process, you receive an email letting you know you're on the register and eligible to start working.

Related: How to become a nurse

5. Apply for jobs

Registration as a nursing associate is an ideal point for starting your job search and application process. When searching for jobs, look for those specifying a nursing associate role. Your qualification refers to nursing associate roles and not registered nurse positions. Applying for the right roles increases your chances of successfully securing roles as a nursing associate. Consider applying to organisations you worked in throughout your placement. This makes the transition to working as a nursing associate simpler, as you may know some of the people you might work with before starting.

When applying for roles, read the job description and candidate specification as thoroughly as possible. On your CV and cover letter, try to include as many of the skills mentioned in the job description as possible. Mention having the right competencies for the role to hold the attention of a recruitment manager more effectively. Discuss your experience in your cover letter wherever possible, as this relates your skills with specific experiences and provides a point for conversation in a job interview.

Related: Different types of job applications and how to apply

Nursing associate skills to devlop

Nursing associates use a range of different skills in their role, including:

  • Communication: Nursing associates use communication when discussing patient symptoms and treatments. Improve your communication skills with a range of techniques, including speaking clearly and consciously working on your non-verbal communication.

  • Problem-solving: Nursing associates use problem-solving when responding to changes in the condition of patients. Improve your problem-solving abilities by completing puzzles in your free time and developing a logical mindset.

  • IT skills: Nursing associates use IT skills when adding and receiving patient data from a range of different systems. Improve your IT skills with a range of training courses for each specific piece of software.

  • Stamina: Nursing associates use both physical and mental stamina when working long shifts at a hospital. Improve your physical stamina by developing an exercise routine, including mindfulness techniques such as meditation.

  • Teamwork: Nursing associates use teamwork when working as part of a larger nursing unit to develop better treatment for patients. Improve your teamwork skills by completing team-building exercises with fellow members of staff.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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