The first major political interaction I had was hosting a South East London MP event. It gave members the chance to speak to MPs and that opportunity made me feel proud. We were able to tell them exactly what it's like on the frontline and how challenging it is.
We need to start engaging with MPs a lot more. Seeing them react to what my colleagues were saying was a lightbulb moment for me. We can be political, and we don’t have to be uncompromising or aggressive.
It’s really about starting a conversation, highlighting issues in a way politicians can relate to, and being memorable so they might relay those points in the Commons, potentially resulting in real change.
We need more people to stand up and say what's important to them
There’s been a couple of high-profile political events organised by the RCN recently, including the Valuing Nursing Summit, which brought together members to speak with the former Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Sajid Javid.
Having the opportunity to speak to the then Health Secretary was amazing, and we got across some important points to him, such as what it’s like in nursing at the moment as staff face financial challenges and what needs to change to protect the future of the profession and patient care.
Another event saw a delegation of RCN London members meet with the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan. The event was a great local opportunity to speak openly and frankly about how the rising cost of living in the capital, especially rising transport costs, is putting more and more staff under severe financial pressure and making it harder for employers to retain nursing staff, risking patient care.
The power of having a voice
It’s so important that we don’t shy away from engaging politically. It gives us, as members, the power of having a voice.
The more voices we have, the more stories we share, the more likely change will happen. Don’t miss your opportunity. We need more people to stand up and say what's important to them. Take up these opportunities to go to events, speak to MPs, and write to MPs.
Having the confidence to speak to influential people can take practice. It can be nerve-racking at times. When I was growing up, I was always the shy person in the classroom.
So, when attention is turned to me at these political events, I focus on my passion and why I’m doing what I’m doing. I’m concentrating on the fact that there are so many nursing staff out there who don’t feel they can speak up.
I have a few tips to share to help keep your cool in these situations and get your point across well.
Top tips for getting your point across
Firstly, always make sure you introduce yourself, so they know who they’re speaking to. That could just be your name and your role, you don’t have to say the organisation you work for.
Speaking slowly is a definite must. Take a deep breath and collect your thoughts before you start talking.
I always have some bullet points written down. This could be on a scrap piece of paper, or on your hand. It doesn’t need to say much. Write down what you want to get across or ask. Make sure you’re making a very clear and strong point, succinctly, before the person you’re addressing loses focus.
There’s another tool I find works well in delivering a poignant point to a politician, if you have enough time. Using a relatable case study or example really drives the reality of your point home. You must bring that politician into your world.