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