Case study

From care worker to registered nursing associate and beyond

Rachel Atkin knew what she wanted. While working in the private care sector, she began researching careers in nursing and found out about the Nursing Associate role. She mapped out the educational route she would need to take to become one and got to work straight away.

What is a nursing associate?

This is a new role within the nursing team. Nursing associates work with healthcare support workers and registered nurses to deliver care for patients and the public. It is also a stepping stone to becoming a registered nurse.

How did Rachel become one?

Rachel Atkin has recently become a Registered Nursing Associate by completing the Nursing Associate Higher Apprenticeship, a two-year programme which combines 80% on-the-job training with 20% academic learning. The apprenticeship provides you with a foundation degree and the necessary skills and knowledge you will need to practice. This is Rachel's story:

"I remember mapping out my journey to become a Trainee Nursing Associate (TNA) whilst working in the private care sector. I had become aware of the role through researching nursing courses. I set my sights on achieving NVQ2 and 3 in Health and Social Care, then applied to be a Health Care Assistant (HCA) at the Royal Derby Hospital.

"Having to gain one-year HCA experience prior to applying for the TNA, allowed me to achieve Maths and English at Level 2 through the Royal Derby Hospital education team. I became laser-focused on learning the HCA role as thoroughly as possible and sought out many clinical learning opportunities within a few select departments, to gain the experience I would need to succeed in my TNA interview. I was extremely well supported by a handful of very inspiring leadership team individuals, who pushed my boundaries and ensured I could reach my goal of becoming a TNA."

Rachel's experience of the Higher Apprenticeship

"The Apprenticeship programme has unlocked a wealth of opportunity for me. It has afforded me two education-filled years in which I experienced the intensity and rewards that nursing holds. The TNA journey has enabled me to make decisions about my nursing career that I would not have been able to make as easily without having experienced nursing care as a TNA. 

"I cannot recommend this journey enough. I have grown as an individual, not only in clinical skills and competence, but to have been part of such a great team, both academically and within practice, has been a privilege. Meeting so many characters along the way with many golden nuggets of information, has allowed me to confidently learn new skills and be encouraged and supervised within practice."

"Dedicating myself to the academic studies aspect of this course throughout Covid times was indeed a challenge. However, having fantastic academic support from lecturers, personal tutors, practice leadership team and colleagues, all helped me to succeed. My own sheer determination, courage and support from family, friends and my University peers were also huge factors to my success."

Nursing Associate Rachel Atkin beside a Christmas tree

I cannot recommend this journey enough. I have grown as an individual, not only in clinical skills and competence, but to have been part of such a great team, both academically and within practice, has been a privilege.

Rachel Atkin
Registered Nursing Associate

"If I can do it, anyone can"

"I am extremely proud of my achievement – an overall Distinction. Was it easy? No, of course not. If it was easy everybody would do it. But if you were to ask me was it worth it? Yes, the sun came out after every difficult moment. Academic and practice support was available at all times and most of all, I believed in myself and knew if I could do it, anyone can.

"I owe my success in this fabulous Nursing Associate Apprenticeship, not only to my own commitment and hard work, but to every single person who has contributed to my journey. With thanks to everyone involved — I could not have done this without you."

Next step — Registered Nurse!

Rachel has decided to continue her studies and has set her sights on becoming a Registered Nurse. Her Higher Apprenticeship means that she will be able to take a fast-track route:

"I have undoubtedly been enabled through the Nursing Associate Apprenticeship programme to take the next step to becoming a Registered Nurse. I have recently been successful in joining the University of Derby's BSc Adult Nursing as a direct entry student, which means I can complete the course in 18 months because of my previous learning and experience.

"Once again, with encouragement from academic advisers at the University of Derby and the support of my Royal Derby Hospital leadership team, I find myself embarking on the next stage of my journey. Ultimately, the Nursing Associate Apprenticeship has propelled my employment prospects and I have been extremely lucky to have carved out a pathway to becoming a registered nurse and am keen to remain in the elective orthopaedic arena of nursing."

Student nurse applies dressing on arm of patient

Find out more about this apprenticeship

Read more about the Nursing Associate Higher Apprenticeship, including what it entails and how to get on to this programme.

View Nursing Associate ApprenticeshipView Nursing Associate Apprenticeship