Navigating practice learning for nursing associate apprentices

Nursing associates (NA) are a new profession in the nursing family with the majority gaining their qualifications via the apprenticeship route. Learning whilst working has its own challenges, and therefore my current research aims to understand the tensions of being both a learner and an employee as a trainee nursing associate.

My research is focused on gaining insight into individual perceptions of their practice learning environments to highlight the distinct factors and experiences encountered by nursing associate apprentices. As my research focusses on discovering the intricacies of practice learning from a personal perspective of NA’s, a qualitative phenomenological approach has been chosen. Being able to study the experiences of each participant within their own assumptions and interpreting their pre-conceived ideas and beliefs enables me to begin to gain better insight into their individual perceptions of practice learning.

The aim of my research is therefore to evaluate the practice learning experiences of nursing associate apprentices and employers when navigating different organisational environments by:

  • Exploring how different workplace environments impact practice learning opportunities.
  • Examining the factors affecting student motivation and success within practice learning.
  • Evaluating learning expectations for apprentice nursing associates.
  • Analysing how assessment is applied within different practice learning environments and make recommendations for future practice.

Recruitment was via purposive sampling with the research conducted using semi-structured interviews via MS Teams which was recorded and transcribed. Data analysis is currently in progress in line with hermeneutic phenomenology and interpretive phenomenological analysis methodologies. Interpretation has taken place by review of individual recorded interviews and transcripts prior to moving onto the next. The result of this method of reviewing the data is that of the double hermeneutic, whereby the research participant attempts to make sense of their experiences, whilst I attempt to make sense of them trying to make sense of their experiences.

My initial findings include the impacts of professional identity, opportunities to gain higher education qualifications, communities of practice, hierarchical support structures and tensions between the professions. These concepts will be the focus of my poster discussion which will highlight the positive benefits of the apprenticeship route together with the challenges encountered.