How nursing associates have supported during the pandemic

nursing associate smiling

Gill Miller is an organisational development lead, and Tracy Jones is a nursing associate and assistant practitioner lead, both provide strategic direction for workforce and organisational development initiatives, including the nursing associate role, at Livewell Southwest.

Livewell Southwest is a social enterprise delivering integrated physical and mental health and social care for adults and some children’s services across Plymouth, South Hams, West Devon and some specialist services in Cornwall.

18 months after Livewell's first cohort of nursing associates qualified and joined the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) register, Gillian and Tracy share the impact of the role during the pandemic.

The value of the role

The nursing associate (NA) role has been more vital than ever in delivering patient care during the pandemic. 

Most of our NAs stayed on the frontline with their current teams, working tirelessly to provide high quality patient-centred care. Community mental health services had to be delivered differently to ensure consist and safe care continued for staff and patients. 

Three of our second year trainee NAs within mental health were redeployed into areas that matched their skills and knowledge, one worked from home, continuing to provide care with telephone follow ups; one was deployed to the community mental health critical care service and one was redeployed to our new mental health first response team. 

All these teams have commented on how the trainees’ holistic knowledge around physical and mental health has enhanced care provision within all of these services, making a real difference to patients. One of the trainees during this time has been in many situations where emergency care had to be implemented, from suicide attempts to recognising when a patient was seriously ill on the telephone by listening to their breathing, showing that understanding of the whole patient is paramount. 

Another year two trainee was redeployed to a newly formed inpatient ward area. This individual is normally based with one of the health visiting teams, however, the skills and knowledge she has gained over the programme, with the placements she has undertaken, made her a perfect candidate to work on this new ward.

All of our NAs and trainees were willing to be redeployed to provide the care to those that needed it most. The care they have delivered, and the feedback received has been testimony to the nursing associate programme and the holistic patient-centred health care professionals they are.

What next?

14 trainee NAs have just completed programmes and will enter the NMC register over the next few months. We look forward to seeing them flourish as NAs in their teams, not only providing high quality care to our patients but being advocates and ambassadors for the role. 

With each year of recruitment, we have seen the effect the NAs have in their teams and the wider workforce. Health care assistants and support workers within Livewell work closely with the trainee NAs, whether in their team or while on placement. This inspires the band three workforce to develop and progress, with applications being generated by those who have worked directly with a trainee NA. 

Livewell currently has a further eight trainees entering the second year of the programme, with nine commencing in September 2020, all from developing our current workforce and across all our services. 

We were part of the initial pilot together with our sustainability and transformation partnership (STP) organisations and chose to focus on developing the role in district nursing, where we were experiencing staffing shortages. Read more about our introduction of the role in our previous blog.

An exciting development is that from our initial pilot with just our community nursing service, every year community nursing puts forward further applicants to become NAs, with three about to qualify and six on programme. Highlighting how this role is highly valued.

Livewell is committed to the nursing associate role and will be continuing to recruit to enhance all of our services in the future.

Find out more about nursing associates and establishing the role in your organisation, in our guide to nursing associates.

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