Posted by: ayrshirehealth | May 9, 2015

Chair of RCN Congress by @stueymckenzie

Meet, learn and develop

This will be my first year as the Chair of Royal College of Nursing Congress having been the Vice-Chair for the last four years. Stuart McKenzieFor those that haven’t heard of RCN Congress, it is the annual gathering for RCN members to meet, learn, develop professionally and share excellent nursing practice.

Around 4,000 delegates attend each year, and it is an opportunity for members to inform the RCN agenda and influence nursing and health policies through debate. As Chair of Congress I sit on the governing body of the RCN, its Council.

I’ve been going to Congress now since 1998 and in that time have only missed one. Its afforded me the opportunity to influence the professional and political direction of the largest Union of nurses in the world.

The Debate

At the heart of Congress is the debate of which there are two kinds; the Matters for Discussion and the Resolutions.

screen-capture-11There is typically around 24 to 26 substantive items on the Agenda with the opportunity for three or four ‘Emergency Items’ for emerging issues.

It’s my job as Chair of Congress to lead the Agenda Committee in deciding upon an Agenda from all of these items to recommend to the Council of the RCN for that years Congress.

RCN LogoThe items on the Agenda are submitted four months before Congress by members of the RCN through their Branches, Forums, Boards and Committees and on average there’s about 175 submitted.

They can range from matters pertaining to clinical care, to nursing education, work-force planning, health and safety and terms and conditions for example.

Matters for Discussion are exactly as they are described, items that the submitting entity feels requires open debate at Congress without the requirement for a vote.

In 2013 we debated the following:

That this meeting of RCN Congress discusses the personal and emotional toll on nurses of dealing with trauma, death and dying.

It was submitted by a Branch in London and presented by a delegate and member of the college who worked in palliative care but had experienced the suicide of a friend and how his personal experiences had impacted upon his practice.


screen-capture-9Resolutions are the items that the submitting entity wishes Council to take into their business and act upon in the coming year. Resolutions require to be proposed and seconded by voting members of Congress, these can often be related to pay terms and conditions but not exclusively.

A good example of such an item was on the agenda of Congress 2011.RCN Congress 14

That RCN Congress urges Council to campaign for legally enforceable staffing levels to safeguard standards in the current economic climate.

On this occasion the item was passed with 80% of the votes in support of the motion.

It is difficult to describe the exhilaration of being involved in such a debate or when proposing an item at Congress in front of so many of your peers. The depth of passion felt in some of the debates that touch on every branch of nursing is utterly inspiring and reminds you that as nurses we are all connected by the people we care for and the lives we touch as clinicians.

Two months and counting

Now with less than two months to go to Congress 2015 in Bournemouth the business of congress is truly ramping up. This year’s RCN Congress is sure to be exciting coming in the wake of the 2015 General Election and all of the political parties’ views and policies on Health being centre stage in the media. RCN Congress 15It’s going to be my first year as Chair and its pretty much going to be in at the deep end but I can’t wait to get that first debate ‘on the floor’.

Once we’re are Congress it’s up to me, my Vice Chair BJ Waltho (@bjgw) and the Agenda Committee to manage the debates, ensuring that all of the voting technology and speaker queues are open and overseeing events from the main stage. The constitution of Congress is detailed and with the help the Governance staff of the RCN we ensure that all procedures are followed in accordance with this constitution, that can be tricky when there are challenges from the ‘procedural’ microphone from delegates or there is a topical debate and emotions are high.

This week’s blog was by @stueymckenzie (Stuart McKenzie), Clinical Nurse Manager, Forensic and Rehabilitation Services, NHS Ayrshire & Arran and Chair of the Royal College of Nursing Congress 2015.

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