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Whether you are a first time visitor or you've attended Congress a number of times, there is something for everyone at this year’s event. Find out everything you need to know about attending Congress and what to expect when you’re there.

Put simply, RCN Congress is the most important event of its type in the nursing calendar. It’s where nursing staff meet to learn, develop and share nursing practice and to influence UK-wide nursing and health policy.

How much it costs to attend

Congress is free to attend, however you will need to consider the costs for your travel and accommodation. We have information available to help you get to Congress.

Funding to attend Congress

Applications for funding to attend Congress have now closed.

Your country or regional RCN office may also be arranging coach travel to Congress – their contact details are also listed on your MyRCN page.

What you can expect at Congress

Member debates

Each year, Congress debates around 25 subjects, all of which have been submitted by members, covering clinical, staffing, financial, social and political areas. These issues are often reported in the media direct from Congress, and they lead to wide-ranging work carried out by the RCN, often lasting for many years.

The whole process is led by the Chair of Congress (currently Glasgow-based forensics and rehab nurse Stuart McKenzie), his Vice Chair BJ Waltho (Associate Director of Operations, Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospitals) and the Agenda Committee (four elected RCN members).

During a debate any RCN member registered for Congress can get up and speak about the subject that is being discussed.

There are two types of debates:

  • Resolutions – RCN members vote on resolutions and a majority vote directs the future work of the RCN
  • Matter for discussion – these are not voted on but allow members to explore issues and share views.

There are also emergency agenda item debates. These are for submissions on issues which arise after the closing date for submitting agenda items has passed. 

In resolution debates each local branch and forum are allocated a certain number of votes, depending on their size. This helps to ensure that the whole RCN membership is represented in the vote.

The Congress guide you will receive when you first arrive at Congress contains a plan showing exactly where these members will be seated throughout Congress – so do go along and say hello to members from your area.

Keynote speakers

We invite health professionals, politicians, campaigners and other influential speakers to address Congress each year. These are often announced in the days and weeks leading up to Congress and are always a highlight of the week. 

Fringe events 

Each morning, lunchtime, and early evening there are a selection of seminars to choose from – these are a great opportunity for personal and professional development and can count towards NMC revalidation requirements. Other events are tailored specifically for HCAs/health care support workers or students. These are in smaller rooms, last around 45 minutes and cover a broad range of specialist areas of practice, workplace issues, health and well-being and networking, and give you the chance to share knowledge and innovations.


The Exhibition opens on the first evening and runs until lunchtime on the penultimate day. It is the largest, most comprehensive exhibition of its type where you’ll be able to meet employers, universities, recruitment agencies and health care providers and see many of the latest innovations relating to your workplace.

Social events 

Congress also features a number of networking and social events for all delegates. There’s an opening-night reception in the Exhibition Hall, events hosted by your own country or regional RCN office on the second night, and an end-of-Congress get-together on the penultimate evening.

Assistance whenever you need it 

Members of the Agenda Committee, who lead Congress on the members’ behalf, and RCN Council (our governing body which has overall responsibility for Congress) are at Congress all week and would be delighted to meet and guide you. They are seated at the front of the auditorium during debates. You will be able to recognise the members of the Agenda Committee by their polo shirts.

You’ll never be far away from an RCN member of staff – they are there primarily to help you make the most of your time at Congress. Help is always available at the Registration Desk, the Information Hub and on the RCN Stand in the Exhibition Hall.

How Congress Works is a very useful warm-up session  – it’s very informal, and will give you a good idea of what to expect during debates. At Congress 2017 we will be running it twice – on Saturday, before the opening ceremony, and on Sunday.

When you arrive at Congress, you’ll get a comprehensive Congress Guide, which contains all the finer details of Congress including background information on the debates, locations, maps and timings. You will also receive a personalised information booklet through the post.

12-16 May Congress 2018, Belfast

Visiting Congress

Information on the venue, how to get there and booking accommodation for your stay.