Channey Soper, South Devon College healthcare student.

 Staff and students at South Devon College (@sdcollege) are celebrating this week as it becomes the first further education (FE) college in the country to have its Nursing Associate programme directly approved by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).

This trailblazing validation comes on the back of news that student applications to healthcare related courses across the college are up by 200 per cent.

The pre-registration Nursing Associate foundation degree was created to bridge the gap between health care assistants and registered nurses and provide vital career progression for the future workforce.

The two-year course based at the University Centre South Devon (UCSD), part of South Devon College, provides a direct route to becoming a Registered Nursing Associate. After two years, students are also able to take the new Nursing Apprenticeship route or top-up their studies at university to become a Registered Nurse.

Students on the Nursing Associate programme at UCSD split their time between academic study, hospital and community placements, developing the skills needed to work within the NHS or other healthcare settings.

Maria Woodger, Assistant Principal at South Devon College said:

“This fantastic achievement recognises the two-year journey we have taken as an organisation to gain Approved Education Institution (AEI) status with the Nursing and Midwifery Council. This concluded with an intense 2-day final assessment visit, which included a review team speaking with employers and placement partners, as well as current and alumni students. It was a rigorous process, and it means so much to the College, our students and the wider healthcare community."

Dr Alexander Rhys, NMC’s Assistant Director of Professional Practice, agrees, he added:

“This is a fantastic step for both South Devon College and the NMC in helping aspiring professionals achieve the nursing associate qualification in the most safe and effective way possible. I hope they will be the first of many colleges seeking direct approval to run a nursing associate programme.”

South Devon College is one of only a handful of further education colleges nationwide that has its own foundation degree awarding powers.

Claire Langman, Head of Health Professions and Nursing at South Devon College, said:

“I hope that South Devon College’s success in accomplishing its Approved Education Institution status with the NMC will inspire other further education colleges to pursue approval in their own right.”

Since the Covid-19 pandemic, applications to nursing courses nationally have increased by a massive 32% in the last year, with more than 60,000 people interested in nursing as a career. Overall, there was an increase across every age group with the number of potential students aged 35 or over exceeding 10,000 for the first time.

Former Nursing Associate foundation degree student, Tracey Woodham, who is now a registered nurse said her course at South Devon College gave her the knowledge, skills and confidence to become a fully qualified nurse.

“South Devon College supported me with the confidence and competence to achieve the standard required to succeed in the pilot programme for the Nursing Associate training. The course not only enabled my pathway to become a Registered Nurse but also helped me to achieve underpinning knowledge which is an essential element within a career of nursing.”

Students on the Nursing Associate foundation degree have access to cutting-edge facilities including a quarter of a million-pound, state-of-the art Healthcare Simulation Suite. It includes a four-bed ward with full ‘Nursing Anne’ simulation mannequins. It was designed to simulate a realistic ward environment which students are likely to encounter in the workplace.

It is predicted that 3.2 million new healthcare jobs will be created in the next eight years. UCSD’s Health Professions and Nursing department’s broad curriculum has been designed with employers in mind, focusing on the specific requirements of the South West in particular, where high quality employees across the healthcare sector are needed. With 51,000 jobs lost across the South West in 2020, the opportunity for career reskilling and rejuvenation comes at a critical time.

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