Understanding the roles of registered general nurses and care assistants in UK nursing homes

J Adv Nurs. 2003 Jun;42(5):497-505. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2648.2003.02649.x.


Background: The recent government decision to fund the costs of Registered nursing time in long-term care facilities in England through the Registered Nurse Contribution to Care renders the need to distinguish the role of Registered General Nurses (RGNs) from that of Care Assistants (CAs) in nursing homes increasingly important.

Aim: The objective of this qualitative study was to obtain an in-depth understanding of the main differences between the roles and functions of RGNs and CAs working in nursing homes in the United Kingdom (UK).

Design: Data were collected through interviews with nine RGNs and 12 CAs employed in four different nursing homes across England.

Findings: Our findings suggest that RGNs have difficulty defining and limiting their roles because they have all-embracing roles, doing everything and anything within the home. By contrast, CAs define their role in terms of what they are not allowed to do. This difficulty in limiting their role, in addition to their sense of professional accountability for residents' care, leads RGNs to experience difficulty in delegating tasks to CAs. Both RGNs and CAs agreed that an increase in the number of assistive staff is needed to provide residents with good quality care and suggested that a measure of resident dependency would be a good method by which to determine staffing levels.

Conclusions: We recommend that job descriptions that clearly define the roles and responsibilities of both RGNs and CAs are developed so that caregivers at all levels understand each others' roles and work together to co-ordinate, plan and provide residents' care.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Caregivers
  • Humans
  • Nurse's Role*
  • Nursing Assistants / organization & administration*
  • Nursing Homes*
  • Nursing Staff / organization & administration*
  • Personnel Staffing and Scheduling
  • United Kingdom
  • Workload