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'Nurses have proved they are a powerful profession'


Nurses have often chastised themselves for appearing to be too meek, too obliging, too self-effacing and too powerless to change the status quo.

But in the past few days, we’ve witnessed these perceptions of nursing are ones that you are leaving in your rear mirror.

The image of nursing that we’ve seen in the last week has been one of savvy, passionate, empowered, able and serious professionals. Nurses topped the bill in nearly every news programme during the RCN Congress, and ensured serious questions were raised about the importance of their involvement in the reforms.

Health secretary Andrew Lansley’s listening exercise at the congress was debated by RCN members who wanted to see him address the entire audience rather than a selected few, while the RCN leadership argued that any opportunity to have Mr Lansley’s ear should not be wasted. But whatever side of the fence you come down on, his attendance brought more of the media to Liverpool, and elevated the status of nurses in the public consciousness. Meanwhile nurses’ reaction to his presence forced him to apologise for not being clear about nurse involvement in the reforms.

The overwhelming vote of no confidence maintained the media’s focus on the congress. The RCN will - and should - work with the government to ensure these reforms are shaped by the meaningful contribution of nurses, which has made some insiders suggest this vote of no confidence was an empty gesture. But such acts of defiance have and can make a difference to the health secretary, the government and the bill.

If you’ve ever questioned the influence of nursing, then the last few weeks should have dismissed any doubts you’ve had. Nurses proved in the public sector march in London last month, and at last week’s RCN Congress that they have power and can make those in government stop and think - and listen. Aneurin

Bevan said the NHS would survive as long as there were people to fight for it. You’ve proved you are the people he was talking about


Readers' comments (8)

  • who's got the slickest media machine, rcn or the con party? expect a lot of dirty hospital linen to be aired over the next few years as politicians seek to undermine public support for the nhs. mid staffs'll be the tip of the iceberg.

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  • We haven't proven anything yet Jenny. Our profession has had the first rumblings of waking up, that is all. To prove we are as powerful as we know we are, we need to follow through on strike action, demand that no changes are to be made to the NHS unless it is clinically led by us or by Doctors, and demand that fundamental problems with our profession are sorted, and make it clear that we will no longer be threatened with cuts to pay, increments, staff or services. Only once that happens, will we have proven that we are a powerful profession.

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  • The numbers who were there were quite small so are not representative of nurses in general... I agree with the vote but for me nursing is and has always been inept in terms of making itself a force in politics. You just need to see the faces of the nurses that get to meet politicans particularly PMs at walk rounds... All smiles etc...hand picked by Health Boards... I think it's a broad issue that really is based on a weak foundation which that starts for me with the fact our profession clings onto gender based job titles! Sister has no place in nursing...both sexes should use the title chrge nurse! Maybe then respect for our profession would grow and we would be taken more seriously in all aspects including politice!!

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  • Nurses who take their profession seriously have always been knowledgeable, "...passionate, empowered, able and serious professionals."

    There is absolutely nothing new in this. Because the service they provide is free at the point of delivery many of the less educated in Britain are under the misapprehension that it is a totally free service and is therefore often not held in the high esteem it merits. If people had to shop around and pay directly out of their own pockets for the services they use, they would give nursing the same attention they accord to the qualities of other services they purchase and those who provide them instead of taking nurses totally for granted and ignoring their needs for recognition.

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  • Anonymous | 22-Apr-2011 3:20 pm very good point

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  • Im sorry but what planet are you (or any one else who believes we have power) living on Jenny? Politicans have a set agenda - always have had. That they dont REALLY listen to people on the ground is what I honestly believe. I only have to look at my immediate managers to see that.
    Doctors may have some power still but we never have had and all the upgrading of our profile-university degrees and all- wont change a thing.
    Whatever the apology and listening exercise was meant to do if it changes a thing in reality Ill willingly eat humble pie- and my NMC registration certificate!

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  • Anonymous | 24-Apr-2011 8:10 pm actually we have power as a profession like you wouldn't believe, we just do not wield it!!!! I know, it's a constant source of bewildering confusion for me too. If every Nurse went on strike tomorrow and we had someone with a backbone fighting our corner, the NHS would collapse and the government would back down with its tails between its legs within a day. Look at the fire fighters, look at teachers. They wouldn't stand a chance and they know it. They also know, unfortunately, that we are unlikely to do so. But that IS changing.

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  • A bit of publicity, a few TV appearances, some column inches, and the odd bleat on to someone in power do not demonstrate strength, unity and power for our profession. Hard and fast action is the only way our voice as a profession will be heard. It's the people on the frontline that deliver the hands-on care, and they are the ones best placed to know what's wrong, and what needs improving to sort out our NHS. I know that the answers are often obvious, and that funds and resources within trusts are apparently 'not available', or so they would tell us, but most, if not all trusts take advantage of nurses good will, lack of power, and dictatorial control and coercion from above. A lot (not all before I'm shot down in flames) of nurse managers are mere puppets to the trusts that they work for. They are the ones that are meant to be in the positions of power, so it should be them that are fighting tooth and nail to make service improvements to make our lives better as frontline workers, and in doing so, improve patient care. For way too long, we have been a laughing stock as a profession, and we're even laughed at by our own kin, and if we really care, we need to get militant, make some real noise, and strike. I'm ashamed at how weak my own profession is, but we all need to unite and stand together if we are to have any success at making things better for ourselves and our patients. Negotiation is no longer the way. We've spent decades demonstrating how useless that is for nurses. We get patronised, pacified, and p**sed on from a great height. Let's put a stop to it please!

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