I will never undervalue the privileged I have of representing student nurses across the UK! What a wonderful, energetic and fun filled day we had at the RCNs SIO political leaders of the future event! Proud to say the first of its kind and hopefully not the last…I’m only in this elected post for another 8 months! Definitely plan on making the most of it, alongside a dream team committee!#RCNStudents50
oh so for those of you reading who didn’t already know… I am the Royal College of Nursing’s elected student Member of Council and Chair or the StudentCommitteee.
Getting your voice heard: Nursing and political influencing
Earlier this month the RCN student’s committee proudly hosted a parliamentary event and workshop at RCN HQ, this was the first event of its kind organised for student leaders and SIOs. The program funded 5-6 SIOs from each country and region to attend the event. It focused on learning how parliament works, Understanding the difference between Parliament and Government and the role of MPs and Lords. In addition, we collaborated with the RCN’s public affairs team to bring in the RCN’s own approach to political engagement, this focused on a practical workshop on how to be active in meeting and influencing your MP. All students received a ‘Take Action’ pack from the UK parliament team and an RCN toolkit to take away, enabling them to share information and begin their journey as a nursing activist.
It is certainly not breaking news that the current climate for the nursing profession is facing many challenges, what with continued cuts to training bursaries, grants and resources, a 40,000-nursing shortage in vacancies and with another recent drop in applications reaching an all-time low 14% reduction on student nurses starting their training programs. Therefore, it is vital, more than ever that nurses are supported in becoming more politically active and aware. Nurses are regulated by law and must continuously work within strict regulations, from the NMC code of conduct to local hospital and care policies and procedures. It is therefore arguably fundamental that nurses are politically engaged and active purely because of the nature of the profession. What many nurses and students may not realise is how closely the two are linked, as politics and policy affect all areas of nursing. More importantly being politically active enables us to better advocate for our patients and enables social justice which is a core value in the nursing profession.
As the student member of the council, I personally felt very strongly about getting as many students as possible engaged with politics at the start of their nursing journey. I was fortunate enough to gain a place at the first ever ‘UK Parliamentary Student Leaders’ event in the Palace of Westminster back last summer. This program was developed by UK Parliament to help students from all areas of education in stepping forward as future pollical leaders. I knew once I had completed the program that I wanted to share what I had learned with as many nurses as possible. The student’s committee and I were keen to take this learning event and adapted it further to focus more on nursing in politics. I worked closely with Sky Yarlett (senior student engagement officer, UK parliament) and Jon Considine from RCN public affairs team to create a diverse program of learning and workshops that could be then implemented as a toolkit for students to use widely in campaigning nursing issues.
The event was very successful and the feedback was fantastic, and the student’s committee is certainly planning to host more events like this for students! We are already putting the learning from the parliamentary workshop into good use, as many of the SIOs from each region are going to Westminster next month to represent the student voice at a parliamentary event. The purpose of the event is to make the case to MPs as to why nursing students need bespoke financial support. I would encourage anyone reading this to go and find out more about how they can become more politically aware and active as nurses, you can get in touch with the RCN’s public affairs team who are a wealth of knowledge and support. I think it’s important to note that when I started my training I had no real political knowledge, I knew who the prime minister was and that was about the extent of my political knowledge at the time. Fortunately, having become an active student member of the RCN I quickly learnt the importance of politics in nursing. Having continual support from the RCN to develop skills and knowledge to become an effective nursing activist has allowed me to engage and support campaigns that matter to our profession such as; the bursary or bust campaign, scrap the cap, safe staffing etc. The voice of nursing is essential to achieving better health care and better work welfare for all patients and nurses, it’s never too late to learn something new.
Some comments from SIOs on the day:
“Discussion on parliament was very informative, allowed me more confidence and knowledge to speak to MP’s and more understanding of the pay deal.”
“Excellent! I very much enjoyed, my knowledge regarding parliament has increased and I feel empowered to be able to approach and engage with my MP.”
“Excellent topics covered. All speakers very confident and informed. My first event and I loved it, everyone was so friendly and approachable.”
“I felt empowered to make a change and contact my local MP.”