Thoughts on RCN Congress 2017 in Liverpool

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One of our London staff members Alexandra Murrell attended this year’s Royal College of Nursing Congress held between the 13-17 of May in Liverpool.


She sent her reflections on the event to School Newsletter.

“I have been 3 times to RCN Annual Congress since I qualified as a nurse in 1985. I went to the first one in 1993 at Bournemouth, and this was full of fascinating debates. The expanding roles of nurses working autonomously in minor injury centres, the debate about decriminalising cannabis, and fringe meeting about air pollution increasing the risk of asthma. There was a lot of discussion at that time about nursing becoming a degree course and how important this would be.

The second time I went was in 2007 which was held in Harrogate. On this occassion I spoke about overseas nursing in relation to a short trip I had taken to Pakistan following the devastating earthquake in 2005. At that time there was an active Pakistani nurses group, who I found out have since been disbanded perhaps because many work visas ended. As a result, many had to leave the UK and return to Pakistan. The 2007 Congress had a motion about increasing awareness and testing for hepatitis C, a potential career threatening illness at that time. However, the good news is that using combination therapy with the newer medications now available, the chances of being cured are much higher. There were concerns voiced about the then Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt cutting the funding to some NHS services, however, the scale of these cuts seem very trivial now 10 years on. Dyslexia was discussed in relation to working with students with this condition at a fringe meeting. At the congress Money was collected for a nurse’s fund, and Noreena Hertz who is now economics correspondent on ITV made a rousing speech on helping poorly paid nurses and asking footballers to contribute a days’ pay to help nurses. Obviously, this was before food banks were a normal part of every UK town. Some nurses present thought this was patronising, however, the money collected went to The RCN Foundations Nurses Hardship Fund. See 

Ten years on what has changed, this time the mood was very different in Liverpool. Liverpool was the city I did a short course in tropical medicine in back in 1989. At that time the city was very run down and still trying to recover from the Hillsborough disaster. The city of Liverpool has re-invented itself since as a tourist destination, with cruise ships stopping for people to go to the Beatles Experience and art museums and Slavery museum. 

The mood at the Congress was quite cynical, resigned, exhausted, for so many British nurses. The combination of 12 hour shifts, CQC inspections, revalidation, targets, lack of beds, problems accessing social care have ground down many nurses. RCN Congress had responded with a number of fringe meetings, on Zen, stress-busting relaxation, Bowen therapy, yoga, laughter yoga, Mindfulness, and guided deep therapy. I have to confess I did not go to any of these, this was a complete change from previous congresses.

I did go on a walk about the history of Liverpool and was shown the old children’s hospital, the seamans venereal disease clinic, and was stunned by the statistics on cholera and typhus prevalent in the city last century. This was a fascinating walk on the development of public health in Liverpool. I also went to a talk about the campaign to raise funds for a statue of Mary Secole which is now in the grounds of St Thomas Hospital. Mary Seacole a Jamaican nurse who also went to Crimea and provided care to the wounded as Florence Nightingale did but she is less well known For an insight into her life click here. 

I also went to a discussion on 12 hour shifts, and the mixed picture of the research on their impact. There were concerns expressed that nurses were taking breaks and were discouraged from having short power naps, a valuable way of managing night shifts for many people. There has been some research linking shift work to increased diagnosis of breast cancer and diabetes. Apparently half of nurses prefer 12 hours and half prefer 7.5 hour shifts. What research found was that as nurses become older they prefer shorter shifts, so they can spend time  with their children every day. There has been concerns about fatigue that is common in 12 hour shifts, particularly after 10 and 11 hours of work. RCN continues to research the impact of working patterns.

The mood lifted with the arrival of politicians Jeremy Corbyn and Tim Farron. Theresa May sent a letter stating that she values nurses, though no one appeared to believe her. I did listen to a number of debates, concerns expressed about lack of care for autism this motion expressed need for research by RCN, which was not carried as RCN argued case for not being able to fund research into autism. A motion of concern about Mental health cuts, was carried. Another motion about reducing the number of clinical placement hours was not carried.

A motion that was carried was about nurses with mild dementia being allowed to work in specific areas as a nurse and not feeling stigmatised. This was quite a landmark that RCN members understood the value of accepting that early dementia is not a reason to be retired.

There was a resolution about re-banding pay scales, another way of trying to increase pay. Before Congress, a number of nursing members had voted for industrial action. This is a huge change in nurse culture in UK. Yes after strikes by midwives in 2014 and junior doctors in 2016, people views and experiences have changed. Striking by nurses is not uncommon eslewhere, I remember a nurse friend leaving to work in Australia and shocked that nurses were on strike in 1987. Nurse strikes have also happened in South Africa and Kenya.

A debate which was changed as a matter for discussion was one about not making cycle helmets compulsory. I was surprised that the RCN Dorset Branch was against this proposal. I have been cycling for years and I always wear a helmet. There is clear evidence that cycle helmets prevent face and head injuries, evidence that should make them being compulsory uncontroversial. The statements mentions Denmark and Holland where helmets are not compulsory, however there is a huge difference from cycling in the UK and cycling in those countries. In both Denmark and Holland there are large networks of cycle paths so most cyclists are not encountering lorries or other vehicles which reduce the number of injuries and fatalities there.

British nurses are looking East for ways of reducing stress by mindfulness and other techniques to keep going, rather than looking West. It is difficult to predict the mood of next years congress and whether the state of nursing will be healthier. It is evident that nurses feel devalued currently and that much more effort is needed to make it an attractive career. Maybe a change of government will bring some hope.”

UNICEF Re-accreditation success for SCPHN (Health Visiting).

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The SCPHN (Health Visiting) programme has recently been re-accredited by UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative. Baby friendly accreditation requires significant commitment and is a great achievement for the School. Programme Lead Jillian Taylor, and Lecturer Clare McGuire led the re-assessment, which is awarded for a period of 3-years. Clare said “we are fully committed to promote and protect breastfeeding within the SCPHN programme and would like to thank our students for sharing this commitment. The Baby Friendly Initiative has Global significance and a robust evidence-base. We appreciate our role in contributing to an educated workforce within health visiting, and understand our responsibility in reflecting the Baby Friendly standards throughout the programme. Our key priorities are supporting our students to; understand breastfeeding; enable mothers to breastfeed; promote close and loving relationships between mothers and babies; manage breastfeeding challenges; and communicate effectively through mother-centred conversations.” Jackie McFadyen, Academic and Professional Lead for the Community Cluster, also met with assessors from UNICEF to share the School’s commitment to the Baby Friendly Initiative.

Eco-friendly Silver Award for Hamilton Campus

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Team eco-midwives aided and abetted by several others in the School’s Hamilton Campus were delighted to be awarded a Silver Award at the recent  NUS Green Impact Awards Ceremony. The team, led by Midwifery Lecturer Sheona Brown, worked hard on ensuring that we met all of the essential categories to receive this award, Categories included:-

  • A department walk-round to identify areas that are being heated unnecessarily. Some areas identified included unoccupied rooms and skills labs that had the heating turned up to full. An action plan was developed, including highlighting to all staff to turn radiators down to the frost setting when rooms are not in use.
  • A travel audit was completed via Survey Monkey, this audit demonstrated that our team travel to work in many ways – cycling, walking, car sharing, trains, buses and cars.
  • We explored the use of paper in meetings and encouraged all staff to consider the use of easily available projector equipment to read agendas, minutes and notes. The midwifery team meetings have fully embraced this approach, we have some teething problems but there has already been a reduction in the volume of paper used by the team.
  • The team even contributed a story to the Green Impact Newsletter which should be pop into staff inboxes any day now.

Moving forward the eco-midwives team are keen to engage in the developments for the new Lanarkshire Campus. This would ensure that all good practices begun within our current building are developed as the standard when we move into our new accommodation. Sheona is already thinking of Bee-friendly gardens, vegetable growing and tree hugging sessions (OK maybe she went too far with the last one).

The photos show Sheona receiving the award and the fantastic recycled bowl, made from an old Neil Diamond record, a great initiative for all of us with unused/ruined LP’s.

Please make sure you have the permission of the owner before you do this to other Vinyl Discs or you will not be very popular


The University Formalises its Support for Vulnerable Students

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UWS has brought together a number of initiatives and renewed commitments to support some of its more vulnerable students.
We have a proud track record of removing barriers to higher education, has combined sponsorship, training activities and pledges to demonstrate the University’s continued support for its students as well as to ensure that it is a model of good practice in this area.
UWS is just the third university in Scotland to formally commit to the Stand Alone Pledge, which supports estranged students. The University was recently a high-level sponsor and major supporter of Action Against Stalking’s first UK-wide conference, and has now made provision for staff training to support its role as a Corporate Parent.
The charity Stand Alone aims to aid people of all ages who become estranged or disowned from their family or key family member. Young people who are estranged from their families are likely to be under-represented within the student population, and those who do navigate the application process are more vulnerable to withdrawal from higher education than other groups of students.
UWS’ focus is on helping all its students to succeed and to thrive during their time at the University and it closely engages with all applicants from vulnerable groups, such as estranged students, and makes sure that it is able to support them all the way through their UWS journey. From student mentoring, formal student support services and informal peer support networks to senior staff training and awareness, support for a wide variety of students from a range of backgrounds is at the heart of the UWS experience.
The University currently has the largest number of care leavers in Scottish Higher Education and is widely recognised in the sector for the quality of high-level support and guidance it provides this group.
The University, which works in close partnership with local authorities, schools, colleges and other higher education institutions to increase the number of vulnerable groups progressing to university, is currently in the process of developing a detailed action plan to formalise the support it offers to estranged students.
Professor Craig Mahoney, Principal and Vice-Chancellor, said:
 “At UWS we are committed to providing higher education opportunities for everyone and we are delighted to be working with charities and other organisations to help remove barriers to higher education and academic success. All activities delivered by UWS are inclusive and our aim is to raise awareness of the opportunities available and the benefits of higher education. We realise that pupils from families that have no history of further or higher education face many additional barriers to learning and this includes estranged students who have no family contacts. At UWS we work very hard to ensure that we provide a range of information, advice and guidance before, during and after a student’s time at UWS to support them on their learning journey and beyond.”

Undergraduate Programme Board: First Sub-Cluster Meeting

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Staff from across all the campuses came together to celebrate the successes, discuss the challenges, and plan for the immediate, short and long-term delivery of the BSc (Hons) Professional Health Studies/ BSc(Hons) Nursing Studies programmes.


World café sessions (co-ordinated by Brian Johnston)  ensured the academic and administrative staff involved in programme delivery were able to consider a wide range of issues including the teaching and learning approaches utilised, the assessment and evaluation processes and academic achievement were discussed. Issues such as marketing, the internationalisation of the programmes, admissions, and induction; the student support mechanisms, personal tutoring and the application of engagement policy were all raised across the day.

As a first sub-cluster meeting of the Team, the experience was enjoyable and productive for those involved….the beginning of focused conversations to support further enhancement of the student experience.


Welcome, Stephanie!

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Stephanie Nicoll

Last week Stephanie Nicoll commenced a seconded lecturer post with the UWS Community Team teaching Occupational Health.  Stephanie has been working as a Specialist Community Public Health Nurse SCPHN) delivering an Occupational Health service across many diverse public and private sector organisations since 2002.

She is a former post-graduate student of the UWS SCPHN (Occupational Health) distance learning programme, completing in 2008 progressing forward towards completion of the Practice Teacher programme in 2010.  Completing this programme allowed her to undertake another clinical role supporting best practice in my present post supporting audit and best practice and delivering guidance to the OH clinical team and attainment of the Safe, Effective, Quality Occupational Health Service (SEQOHS) standards.  These are set by the Royal College of Physicians and Faculty of Occupational Medicine and are the current best practice Occupational Health benchmarks in the UK.

As you can see employee health and enablement of wellbeing within the working environment has been Stephanie’s passion for a number years.

This is her first academic post and she is looking forward to working innovatively on new CPD within her specialism for UWS and also supporting the current occupational health pathway.


Our Students at the Florence Nightingale Foundation Students’ Day

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Nightingale 17

Adult Nursing Students’ Danielle Anderson and Adam Weir attended the Florence Nightingale Foundation Students’ day on Wednesday 17th May 2017. The Foundation is a living memorial to Florence Nightingale and its activities include; advancing the study of nursing and promoting excellence in nursing practice, raising funds for scholarships, promoting the special contribution of nursing to society and the health of people, encouraging international understanding and learning between nurses and midwives. The service in Westminster Abbey is held annually to commemorate Florence’s birthday on 12

The service in Westminster Abbey is held annually to commemorate Florence’s birthday on 12th May – now International Nurses Day. Each year a different HEI has the honour of escorting the lamp through the Abbey and on this occasion, Edinburgh Napier University students proudly wore the more traditional nurse’s uniform.

Danielle and Adam have shared these comments about their experience.

Danielle said 

“The Florence Nightingale Foundation students’ day was extremely beneficial to me and the other students from around the UK who attended. It provided a great insight into the different courses in Nursing and Midwifery and it was interesting to hear other students discuss their experiences.  The questions to the panel allowed us as students to express our thoughts and worries about the professions and the members of the panel done a fantastic job of answering these.  They were extremely supportive and provided us with good information and tips for our future careers.  It was lovely to be able to take the time to remember Florence Nightingale and the museum trip allowed me to recognise the difference that she made and how nursing has changed over the years.  The service in Westminster Abbey was an excellent ending to a fantastic day.  It was encouraging to see how nurses are recognised and brought lots of different individuals together to celebrate the profession and Florence Nightingale.  I would recommend that all future student that are given the opportunity to attend this day take full advantage of it.  I am extremely grateful for this wonderful opportunity.”                                                                                         

Adam said,

“…this was one that I shall remember for the rest of my career. It gave me great pleasure to be able to converse with students from all across the UK, and to be able to share ideas and views surrounding the ever advancing profession that is nursing. I wish I could do it again, and I would encourage any other students to do this in the future!”