How to Transition from Health Care Assistant to Registered Nurse

Jun 29, 2023


Are you a Health Care Assistant (HCA) in the UK with a burning desire to take your career to the next level?  

Well, you’re in luck! In this blog, we’ve got the inside scoop on three fantastic options for HCAs looking to leap into the world of nursing.  

We’ll explore the pathways that can turn your passion for healthcare into a rewarding career as a Registered Nurse (RN).  

So, if you’re ready to embark on an exciting growth and professional development journey, keep reading. The doors to your future as a nurse will swing wide open! 

Option 1 – Nursing Associate Training 

A Nursing Associate is a relatively new role within the NHS and bridges the gap between a Health Care Assistant and a Registered Nurse. Nursing Associates work across various settings such as hospitals, care homes and hospices. 

To become a Nursing Associate, you will need to complete a two-year Foundation Degree (FD) which comprises around 2,300 programme hours. This is roughly half the hours required to become a Registered Nurse. 

As part of the training, Nursing Associates must also complete at least two substantial placements adding up to a total of 675 hours, so it’s the perfect option for HCAs looking to study gaining hands-on experience. 

The Nursing Associate training can also lead to a nursing degree apprenticeship. You will achieve a Level 5 qualification as a Nursing Associate, whereas the nursing degree apprentice will move on to Level 6 accreditation. 

Option 2 – Nursing Apprenticeship 

Nursing apprenticeships are designed to help people become Graduate Registered Nurses without attending university. Instead, they allow healthcare workers to study part-time (through an NMC-approved provider) and train in different placement settings such as hospitals and clinics.  

Within any given week, you should spend four days on a work placement, with the remaining day at a college or training centre. As an Apprentice Nurse, you will be paid according to age and how far into your apprenticeship. For example, if you’re between 16-18 and are in the first year of your apprenticeship, you should be paid at least £5.28 per hour. 

As outlined on the NHS website, apprenticeships are available across different levels: 

  • Level 2 – equivalent to GCSEs 
    • Qualify you to become a Healthcare Support Worker 
  • Level 3 – equivalent to A-levels  
    • Qualify you to become a Senior Healthcare Support Worker 
  • Levels 4 and 5 – equivalent to a foundation degree and above 
    • Qualify you to become an Assistant Pracitioner or Nursing Associate (Level 5)  
  • Levels 6 and 7 – equivalent to a full bachelor’s or Master’s degree 
    • Qualify you to become a Registered Nurse or Enhanced Clinical Practioner (Level 6) or a District Nurse or Advanced Clinical Practicioner (Level 7) 

The entry requirements will change depending on which level you want to start at. For example, you’ll likely need four to five GCSE’s to start a Level 3 apprenticeship while Levels 5/6 will require A-levels (or equivalent). You can find vacancies for NHS Apprenticeships on the NHS Jobs website, or talk to one of our team about the best way to approach your local NHS facility. 

Option 3 – Nursing Degree 

The most traditional way to qualify as a Registered Nurse is to complete a Bachelor of Science degree at a university. This will take three years of full-time study, or four years if you want to complete a dual-field degree. 

You will need to choose from one of the following four fields of nursing: 

  • Adult nursing 
  • Children’s nursing 
  • Learning disability nursing 
  • Mental health nursing 

The dual-field degree lets you choose two areas of specialisation. 

Entry requirements for a nursing degree are different depending on which university you want to attend. In general, you can expect to need to have at least two A-levels as well as GCSEs in English, maths and science (ideally related to biology). 

Choosing the Right Path: Considerations and Entry Requirements  

Selecting the best option for you requires careful consideration of your personal circumstances, career goals and learning preferences. As you consider the various study pathways available, it’s important to take several factors into account to choose the right path for you. 

  • Career Goals and Aspirations: Reflect on your long-term career goals and aspirations as a nurse, for example, do you have a specific nursing specialisation in mind? Consider how each study pathway aligns with your desired career trajectory and opportunities for advancement in your chosen field. 
  • Learning Style and Preferences: Consider your preferred learning style and environment. Do you thrive in a structured academic setting with lectures and assignments? Or do you prefer hands-on, practical learning experiences combined with on-the-job training? 
  • Financial Considerations: Finances are crucial in deciding which pathway to pursue. Assess your financial situation and explore the cost of each option, including tuition fees, living expenses and any potential financial support available, such as scholarships, bursaries, or apprenticeship wages.  
  • Entry Requirements: Take note of the entry requirements for each study pathway. Nursing degree programmes typically require minimum academic qualifications, such as A-levels and specific GCSEs. Nursing apprenticeships and nursing associate training may have different entry criteria, such as relevant work experience or completion of specific courses. Ensure that you meet the requirements for your chosen pathway or consider any additional steps you may need to take to meet them. 
  • Flexibility and Work-Life Balance: Consider your current commitments and lifestyle. Can you commit to full-time study, or do you require a more flexible approach that allows you to work while you learn? Nursing apprenticeships and nursing associate training provide opportunities to earn a wage while gaining practical experience. On the other hand, a nursing degree programme may offer more flexibility in choosing part-time or full-time study options. 

Take Your First Steps Towards a Nursing Career 

At WESolutions, we specialise in connecting healthcare professionals with rewarding career opportunities across the UK. With our deep understanding of the diverse roles within the nursing field, we can help you decide which specialisation, setting and role suits you best.  

If you’re ready to take the first step towards a fulfilling nursing career but need guidance on obtaining the necessary qualifications, reach out to us today. We’re here to support you on your journey to success.