Lynn Young on courage under fire - and why every nurse should go to at least one RCN Congress
Before I retire from my illustrious primary healthcare career I want to encourage every nurse in the land to attend one RCN Congress during their working lives.
While the energy and mayhem of congress may not be every nurses’ cup of tea, it is quite something to listen to the many nurses who take to the podium and tell delegates their stories – good and bad news – on what is happening to nursing in their workplaces. Nurses who work in healthcare settings ranging from prisons, intensive care units, general practice, schools and care homes attend Congress in their thousands, making it abundantly clear that nursing stretches to all parts of the health and social care world.
As a nurse it is all to easy to become parochial and fixated on one’s own domain, rather than keeping an eye on the bigger picture of healthcare. Congress certainly reaches all the difficult-to-reach parts.
Many years ago I was Congress virgin and, for the first time, heard nurses speak about what was currently going on in their particular workplace – that of the special hospital. This was the time of the prison officers’ association strike and RCN nurses were bravely going to work every day, gallantly making their way through violent and abusive picket lines.
At this time, these very special nurses suffered because they had a wondrous sense of duty to the patients in their charge – people who society had chosen to lock up. People who had committed such terrible crimes against others, that they may never taste freedom again, but the RCN nurses saw the patient, not the crime, and continued to care against massive odds.
I remember this particular congress very clearly. It was my first and until then I had not thought for one moment about nurses who worked in special hospitals. Special hospitals are many miles from the more gentle and less challenging world of primary care.
The moral of this short story is that, in some parts of healthcare, nurses need to be more courageous than in others; nursing people who society has totally rejected, showing compassion and humanity while the rest of us are happier that they are locked up. This takes very special human attributes.
RCN Congress offers nurses so much in terms of healthy debate, glorious networking, spectacular fringe meetings, parties and mass exhaustion. But, when I am a very old lady, hopefully I will remember the uplifting times experienced during various congresses and take a moment to silently salute the very special nurses who provide devoted care to people who life has been tough on.