Royal College of Nursing Representing nurses and nursing, promoting excellence in practice, shaping health policies

Our work

The RCN is currently involved in or will be developing a variety of women's health related projects.

Ongoing Project - Women's Health Pocket Guides Part 3 (published March 2019)

This project is the third set of pocket guides on specific issues related to Women’s Health. They are brief update son key issues for reference by nurses working in any area where they will encounter women. This third set will focus on:

  • Fertility Preservation 
  • Fertility 
  • Vaginal discharge
  • Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
  • Pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS)
  • Pelvic Organ prolapse
  • Pelvic floor exercises
  • Benign vulva disorders 
  • Cancer of the Endometrium 
  • Cancer of the ovary
  • Ectopic pregnancy
  • Gestational Trophoblastic Disease (GTD)
  • Ovarian cysts
  • Mental health and women’s health
  • Amenorrhea.

Ongoing project - Nurses and Health Care Assistants in maternity services (Midwifery Forum) (Due to be published in 2019)

Across the UK, the majority of maternity units are primarily staffed with midwives who deliver midwifery care to mother and babies. However increasingly complex needs of many pregnant women has led to an increased need of nursing care for many of these women. This has led to the employment of nurses in maternity unit settings. In some units, registered nurses are employed to provide nursing care to pregnant and postnatal women. This may be in the capacity of High Dependency care, post-operative care (post caesarean section) care or elements of postnatal care. 

Currently there are no publicly accessible national figures for the number of nurses employed in maternity care. A recommendation of the King’s Fund report (2011) on staffing in maternity units was to increase the number of nurses working in maternity units. While this may be a useful way forward there is no way of ascertaining the level of nurses’ knowledge about the very specific care and support needs of childbearing women. In addition to this, service staffing pressures and skill mix changes have led to rising numbers of health care assistants (HCAs) working in maternity care. There appears to be no robust data on the number of HCAs working in maternity services, or their training, education and development within their roles. 

The forum believes that these sections of the health care workforce may be under represented in terms of recognition of specific needs they may have around training and continuing professional development. The scoping exercise has ascertained concerns around the current status of nurses and health care assistants working in maternity services, in particular access to service-specific education and training, and continuing professional development (CPD).

New project – Mental health and Menopause (Women’s Health forum)

Many women with underlining mental health issues may find that they are exacerbated by the menopause. This is not always recognised by the health care professionals on the mental health team caring for them. The project links the work of two forums, women's health and mental health. The menopause can have a significant impact on mental health and that may not be recognised

The aim of the project is to develop a nationally recognised guide to the impact that mental health has on the menopause and where to obtain help from. To define mental health issues and menopause related mood changes. 

New project - Menstrual Health Awareness (Women’s Health forum)

There is currently limited information available for women to understand normal menstruation and recognise symptoms requiring investigation.  This educational tool will outline normal menstruation and bleeding patterns throughout the lifecycle as well as highlighting common problems such as Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, endometriosis, heavy menstrual bleeding, amenorrhoea, post-coital bleeding, intermenstrual bleeding, and post-menopausal bleeding.  

The aim of the project is to design an educational tool for non-specialist nurses to use with girls and women to assess for menstrual cycle problems.  This tool will help raise awareness of menstrual health and to identify potential problems in a timely manner to ensure prompt referral to appropriate services. The publication will also describe common investigations and treatment management available to improve the long-term health of women, including their physical, psychological and social well-being.

New project - Fertility Preservation - what nurses need to know (Fertility Nursing Forum)

The Fertility Nursing Forum led a project in 2016-17which resulted in the publication in 2017 of the RCN Clinical Professional Resource on Fertility Preservation.  Feedback from presentations at conferences confirm that fertility and non-fertility nurses would welcome more training about how to present the options available for fertility preservation for adults, young people and children with medical conditions which are likely to impair their fertility and how to raise  sensitive questions with patients.  The workshops will benefit members by making them aware of the options and help them develop the knowledge and skills to enable them to discuss fertility preservation with patients.

These planned for 2019 on fertility preservation will be organised and delivered jointly between the RCN Fertility Nursing, Cancer Care Forums and the British Fertility Counselling Association (BICA).  Four workshops are planned - two in England one in Scotland and one in Wales.  Northern Ireland is being investigated separately.

New project - Emotional Wellbeing and Fertility Care (Fertility Nursing Forum)

The Human Fertility and Embryology Authority (HFEA) will be updating the Code of Practice in October 2018 and will include a section on the emotional care and wellbeing of patients/women and men. This is extremely important for fertility nursing that and not all nurses may have the tools or support from a counselling team to assist the women and men appropriately. The guidance will provide information and resources for nursing staff to utilise and implement into practice. There are a number of studies that have shown that those seeking fertility treatment often experience anxiety and distress when trying to conceive, this guide will assist the nursing teams to support best practice.

The aim of the project is to produce guidance for Fertility Nursing teams to support the emotional needs of women and men accessing fertility services. This is being carried out in collaboration with the RCN Fertility Nursing Forum Committee, the Senior Infertility Nurses Group (SING), British Infertility Counselling Association (BICA) and the RCN Mental Health Forum.


Professional Lead: Carmel Bagness

Read the 2019 Women's Health Forum Team Charter

Follow the forum on Twitter- @RCNWomensHealth

Womens health pocket guide 1

Women's health cards

Part 1 - covers multiple women's health topics including menopause, female anatomy and physiology and the menstrual cycle

Part 2 - covers multiple women’s health topics including contraception, uterine fibroids and cervical cancer

Part 3 - covers multiple women's health topics including fertility, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), pelvic organ prolapse and Gestational Trophoblastic Disease (GTD)

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Page last updated - 13/12/2019