“The Nursing Associate programme is opening up so many doors”
Former Health Care Assistant, Ian Costello, talks about this exciting course.

Ian Costello spent 15 years working as a Health Care Assistant (HCA) at Warren Court’s Forensic Unit and it is a role that he is passionate about. During his time there he has gained considerable experience and expertise so he felt it was time to take the next step. When his supervisor, recognising Ian’s potential, encouraged him to apply to join HPFT’s new Nursing Associate Programme he jumped at the chance.

“The Nursing Associate programme is a bridge between health care assistant and registered nurse. Upskilling knowledgeable HCA’s to become Nursing Associates capable of delivering direct care frees up nurses and acts as a complimentary role” Ian explains. The course runs for two years during which time Trainee Nursing Associates (TNA’s) are skilled in all areas of nursing.

Much of the course is split between distance and work based learning but students also spend one day a week at university and go on regular placements.  One of Ian’s placements was to North West CATT (Crisis Assessment and Treatment Team) and he was clearly impressed. “The work they do supporting people in their homes is amazing. You can see the Trust’s values in everything they do.” Ian is now looking forward to his next placement and top of his list is A&E and ITU.

Ian is thoroughly enjoying the Nursing Associate Programme “It’s opening up so many doors for me” he says. “I was elected to be both the Student Representative for HPFT as well as for the University of Hertfordshire and I’ve been invited to sit on the National Implementation Panel NMC (Nursing and Midwifery Council) HEE (Health Education England). I was an HCA and  now I’m going to be so much more” he adds.

Update: Since this interview Ian has completed his course and is now a fully qualified Registered Nursing Associate in the Learning Disability and Forensic Service at HPFT and is also the Joint lead Nursing Associate Ambassador for Health Education England.  

Ian says: "As a Registered Nursing Associate (RNA), my career journey is far from complete and I have already commenced my Student Nurse training [this is an 18 to 20 month top-up course delivered via an Apprenticeship].

“My journey continues to be full of opportunities which I have found very rewarding. That being said, nothing has been given easily and I have been dedicated in promoting the Nursing Associate role which required me to invest a serious large amount of my own time, hard work and dedication.

“I was asked and accepted to take on the role as Joint Lead Nursing Associate Ambassador for Health Education England and this role includes giving speeches at events, being a point of contact for other trusts and for Trainees and Registered Nursing Associates nationally. I even contributed to the one year anniversary promotional work for the role by the regulators, the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).

“Whilst I waited to start my Student Nurse training, I applied for the Florence Nightingale Leadership Academy. There were only 70 places on the new programme designed for developing leadership skills and I, along with two other RNAs from HPFT secured our placements without needing an interview. This programme helped develop me both as a professional and as a person. I started to look at things differently and confidently took the lead at improving things, even on social media.

“Whilst on Twitter, I identified that there was a missing support network for trainee and Registered Nursing Associates and reached out to the #WeCommunities on Twitter for an account. The approval process took approximately 10 months, but I persevered and the account was launched in November 2019. I am now the proud founder of @WeNursingAssocs account and lead a team of people that help run the community.

“One of the most rewarding and challenging achievements that I am most proud of was writing my first business case proposal to Health Education England. I successfully secured funding for the promotion and advertisement of @WeNursingAssocs account. I did this by designing 800 promotional pin-badges for trainee and Registered Nursing Associates. The #WeNursingAssociatesBadge campaign was so successful that I had to submit another business case to fund a further 1500 which has just been approved.

“I was also asked to sit on the Editorial Board for the British Journal of Healthcare Assistants and this was a national first. I am yet to publish another piece, but I have my first board meeting arranged and I am eager to get going”

“I was given an opportunity by HPFT to become a Nursing Associate, but never did I imagine it would lead to so many wonderful and memorable experiences – If you decide to take one of the development opportunities by HPFT then start imagining the unimaginable, but be prepared to give it your all.”