A new avenue to the nursing profession reached an important milestone in the end of August when 19 nursing associate trainees graduated from the Brookes University.

All 22 participants in the pilot that was set up by Oxford Health in partnership with Health Education England and Thames Valley in 2017 have now graduated from their two-year course that combines paid work at the trust with academic studies either at the Brookes University or University of Bedfordshire.

The qualification – registered nursing associate – is recognised by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) and every graduate is guaranteed a permanent job at the trust.

“Our trainees really took a leap of faith when they started the programme in 2017. At that point we didn’t even know how the qualification would be recognised,” says tutor Sue Lands.

Newly qualified registered nursing associates.

“The NMC recognition is hugely important. Registered nursing associate is now a professional qualification which must be validated every three years. With this qualification our nursing associates can give medication and work independently with their case load delegated by the nurse in charge.”

The pilots had four placements throughout the course, including community and acute settings for physical and mental health.

In her role as a work based tutor Sue supported the pilot students along with her colleagues in the trust. She also liaised with the universities and educates staff about the nursing associate role.

Now the course is delivered as an apprenticeship through Oxford Health in partnership with Bucks New University. The trainees have a three-month placement each year, which can include mental health, physical health, learning disabilities or children’s services, and be community and hospital based.

All programmes are 80 per cent work-based and 20 percent off-the-job learning, either in taught sessions or by self-directed study.

Oxford Health now has 127 trainees in the programme, placed across the whole range of physical and mental health services the trust offers.

Sue remarked: “They are already making a huge difference and will be a valued edition to our nursing work force”.

Part of the trust’s workforce strategy for future cohorts is to offer existing staff an opportunity to earn while they learn and proceed in their career.

If you already work within the trust, you will need your manager’s support to apply for the programme. However, the programme is also open for external applicants. Successful external applicants will be given a temporary contract for the duration of the programme and they also are guaranteed a job after graduation.

The next intake will be in January 2020 and advertising will start soon.