A conversation with...

Maria Trewern talks about her journey to becoming the new Chair of RCN Council

From January, Maria Trewern, née Nicholson, will be leading RCN Council, the group of 17 members elected to direct the organisation. “I’m excited about the role,” she says. “I want to inspire other members, increase the value of nursing and have it acknowledged and also ensure safe staffing.”

Though Maria has a wealth of management and leadership experience, her path to success hasn’t always been smooth. She was brought up in care and was split up from her family when she was young. It was in nursing that she found her sense of belonging.

I loved the feeling of being part of a team

“As soon as I stepped inside a hospital, I loved it,” she recalls. “I wanted to be somewhere for the first time in my life and I loved the feeling of being part of a team.”

Maria started out as a cadet nurse before undertaking nurse training, successfully passing her registered nurse examinations. However, just months shy of completing her training hours, she was forced to withdraw from the course. It was some years later that Maria returned to nursing.

Around this time, in the early 90s, she joined the RCN. “I was very interested in the professional side of the organisation. But like many members, I joined for the indemnity. Then I found out my local RCN branch would close unless people came forward to take on roles. I went along to find out more and before I knew it, I was chair of the branch.”

While Maria’s nursing experience was growing, so too was her desire to influence politically. She trained to be a workplace steward and became a familiar face at RCN Congress, the organisation’s annual professional event where nursing issues are debated.

Unafraid to challenge, she doorstepped Frank Dobson when he was Secretary of State for Health, urging him to prioritise school nursing, an issue she campaigned for with fellow branch member Anne Asprey.

It later became government policy that every child deserves a school nurse after members at Congress voted almost unanimously in favour of a resolution Maria’s branch put forward. “Congress is a major event in the RCN calendar. It’s not to be missed,” she says.

I’m a problem solver

Over the past 15 years Maria’s career has gone from strength to strength. She’s worked as an associate director of service delivery, completed a master’s degree in health care management, worked for herself as a workforce strategy consultant and undertaken various management roles for NHS Professionals, where she works now as Head of Workforce Insight.

“I’m a problem solver,” Maria says. “It’s my job to look at things from a clinical and management perspective and provide solutions that are meaningful for staff and patients. One thing my clients can be sure of is an honest opinion. I will be frank.”

So how will that style be applied to her new role as Chair of RCN Council? 

“I want to use my experience to help drive the RCN forward,” Maria concludes. “For me, it’s about doing what’s right and not being afraid to say it. There’s a time to stand up and there’s a time to speak out. You must do what your heart tells you and use your strategy strength to get you there.”

Find out more

RCN Council provides leadership and direction for the organisation. It ensures that the RCN always has a clear vision and strategic plan, acts as a guardian of the RCN’s assets and holds management to account. Find out more about RCN Council's responsibilities.

Words by Kim Scott / Pictures by Duncan Soar