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The new CNO has set out her stall with her key priorities for representing the profession

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Somewhat to my surprise, I discovered a new board game this week while attending the chief nursing officer for England’s summit in Birmingham. 

At the suggestion of our marketing manager, Steph, the Nursing Times team and I played Articulate in a bar after the end of the first day of the conference attended by the country’s senior nurses.

The game involved trying to describe words from a range of categories such as people, places and objects without using the actual words in their names – all against the clock. Great fun!

Someone at the event also trying to articulate herself at the summit on Wednesday was of course Ruth May, who was giving her first keynote speech since becoming CNO in January.

“The message clearly got through”

She had earlier told me that her speech was going to be about “value”, both the value of nursing as a whole and valuing nurses themselves as individuals.

It was a theme that she started the speech with, telling the audience that “nurses are trusted but too often under-valued”. She then added: “I want our profession to be one that is fully valued.”

She also paused to pose the audience a question: “What does it means to be valued?”

And value was a theme she returned to on frequently to reinforce the point. The message clearly got through, as it was something that nursing directors I spoke to later had really picked up on.

But it was not the only message in the speech. She highlighted three overarching priorities for her time as CNO – build a workforce fit for the future; renew the reputation and value of the professions; and speaking with one voice.

There are, of course, many, many challenges facing nursing at the moment but boiling it down to these three key areas seems sensible and certainly resonated with the audience at the summit. Not to duck the question of workforce was also especially important in my book.

Ruth May is very much at the start of her journey as CNO but the early signs are good. Naturally, as the saying goes, actions speak louder than words and we shall see where we are in a couple of years.

”Being able to clearly articulate her priorities is certainly a positive start”

Health secretary Matt Hancock told the summit that the CNO was in his office a lot, stating that “she makes sure your voice is heard at the top table – and she can be pretty direct”. Let’s hope he’s listening.

Being able to clearly articulate her priorities is certainly a positive start, particularly if it is being articulated with those who hold the reins of power in government and the purse strings at NHS England.

And it is a lesson we can all learn from at every level and in every situation. I include myself in this point and not just in terms of trying to win board games.

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