Regulation and the scope of practice of the RNA role
The nursing associate role was introduced in in 2017, and is now registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council. This article looks at the importance of understanding the registered nursing associate (RNA) scope of practice. In some areas, the roles of the RNA and registered nurse have become interchangeable with detriment to patient safety. The author explores the differences between the role of a registered nurse and an RNA, the training completed by RNAs and ways in which they can free the time of the registered nurse to provide more complex nursing care. As a registrant, nursing associates are accountable for their own practice and responsible for accepting tasks, as well as delegating tasks. Again, it is important that RNAs themselves and members of the multidisciplinary team understand what this means in practice and for maintaining patient safety.
The registered nursing associate (RNA) role was introduced in 2015 as a response to the Shape of Caring review (Willis, 2015) and, in January 2017, in conjunction with Health Education England (HEE), the first trainee nursing associates commenced training in England (HEE, 2023). Six years on, the role remains misunderstood. There have been multiple job advertisements and role descriptors titled ‘registered nurse (RN)/registered nursing associate’, implying that the roles are interchangeable and that an RNA can be employed in place of an RN. This is the opposite to how the role was intended and potentially compromises patient safety and the safety of the nursing associate. The role of the RNA was never intended to be a replacement for RNs, rather the role was designed to support RNs and other members of the multidisciplinary team to improve patient safety and the patient experience (Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), 2020).
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