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Using the OU foundation degree curriculum to support trainee nursing associates to develop professional identity.‘A framework to effectively promote professional identity in nursing associates: a realist ethnographic study’

Version 2 2024-07-04, 13:19
Version 1 2024-06-20, 08:41
posted on 2024-07-04, 13:19 authored by Gemma Ryan, Nicky Genders

Curriculum design and delivery is considered in several articles in the UK and USA (Pence & Suerce, 2020; Sabio & Petges, 2020; Sabio, 2019; Linton et al, 2019; Dainty et al, 2021; King et al, 2022). The importance of curriculum innovation and design in recruiting and retaining associate nurses is explored by Sabio & Petges (2020) in their USA based study of associate level nurses highlight the demographics and profile of associate nurses as a consideration in curriculum design. Some of the perceived barriers to entry to the degree level programme for registration from participants in this study included finances, working arrangements and the balance with family commitments. Time for programme completion is also noted as a barrier with the associate nurse programme being shorter. All of these perceived barriers have been noted in UK studies (Dainty et al, 2021; King et al, 2020; King et al, 2022) and are worthy of consideration at curriculum design stage.

Raising the profile of the role of nurse associates is also seen to be a responsibility of education providers by Dainty et al (2021). Their study suggests there is a role in ‘raising awareness and training’ with clinical partners to enhance understanding. Education providers are often in an ideal position to work with partners and key stakeholders to raise the profile of the nurse associate role. In a study by Taylor & Flaherty (2020) this relationship is explored and joint working in recruitment and programme delivery are highlighted. A specific communication approach for the apprenticeship schemes were described that build upon the work already happening in other health care courses. This has the potential to create a shared understanding of the role and responsibilities of the nurse associate in the workforce.

Whilst a curriculum framework exists for the nurse associate in England the delivery and design of curriculum within this framework remains the domain of education providers. Whilst there appear to have been some challenges managing an apprenticeship approach within an HE model (Taylor & Flaherty, 2020) as time moves on and more nurse associates are trained in this way HE systems and processes need to adapt.

There are a number of key findings in relation to trainees’ educational profiles, demographics, working patterns, placement experience and lived experiences of the programmes in the existing literature that may influence curriculum design and delivery. The curriculum may also be seen as a tool for the development of professional identity. It appears that professional identity formation is an implicit rather than explicit element of curriculum. The recommendations from the study by Goodolf & Godfrey (2021) using the ‘think tank’ approach suggests that this professional identity should become a more explicit element of curriculum and states there is hope that ‘all schools of nursing worldwide will incorporate professional identity formation as a distinct curricular component early in the educational process’ (p497). Whilst this study focusses on nursing identity generally there are some specific transferable points around the role stakeholders, including the role holder themselves, must play in developing role identity.

The development of professional identity is a complex process of professional socialisation and internal and external factors that shape not only the individual’s perception of self but also the perception of others. As a relatively new role in health care in England the nurse associate role is in a process of identity development which requires role clarity, understanding of the role by the nurse associate themselves and others and curriculum design and delivery that supports professional identity development. The existing literature specific to the role of the nurse associate in England is limited but that which exists includes evaluations of pilot sites, pedagogical approaches and self-reported or lived experience approaches. Further research around the developing professional identity of the nurse associate is required to understand this new role in the health care context.





  • Public document

Authorship group

  • Academic - Central
  • Associate Lecturers

Institutional priority category

  • Achieving Study Goals
  • Employability and Career Progression
  • Students Learning Experiences

Subject discipline

  • Health and Social Care
  • Health and Wellbeing

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