Besides the unexpected candour from speakers, what struck me most at our inaugural Nursing Times Workforce Summit last week was the level of engagement and participation from delegates.
During every session I sat in I could see people listening intently to the presentations, shaking their heads in support or disapproval at key moments, and eager to put their point across or add to the debate when the opportunity arose.
I was particularly inspired by the unwavering commitment by a group of delegates to challenge leaders on workplace diversity, and by one nurse in the gallery who fought passionately throughout the conference to keep the learning disability nursing crisis on the agenda.
During my time as a health journalist I have been to countless events like this, with programmes featuring some of the most influential figures from the field – readily available to be congratulated, confronted or held to account.
But more often than not, when the time came for questions from delegates the room would fall silent.
“Nurses are arguably under more pressure than ever before”
Don’t get me wrong, the idea of standing up in front of an audience and saying what’s on my mind fills me dread.
It is scary to raise your head above the parapet – but it is also one of the most effective ways to effect change.
Nurses are arguably under more pressure than ever before with the profession, and the NHS, in a state of flux.
“It is the stories from those living and breathing them day in, day out that will make the real difference”
As health leaders start to draw together plans for the long-term future of our NHS, there has never been a more important time to speak out.
Statistics give a sense of the challenges faced by nurses today, but it is the stories from those living and breathing them day in, day out that will make the real difference.
The recent events at the Royal College of Nursing is just one example of what can happen when nurses stand together for a common cause.
It was clear at the summit that leaders are beginning to recognise the importance of listening to those on the frontline if we are going to fix the problems in the NHS and make it sustainable into the future.
I hope the energy I witnessed at the summit will grow and that nurses and other health professionals continue to use their voice to drown out the silence that used to fall when the mic came in their direction.