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For me, working collaboratively with the RCN has always been a positive experience. I previously worked on our Spinning Plates publication, and my latest project, the second edition of Ask. Listen. Act. guidance, which is about how reps can use the RCN’s Nursing Workforce Standards.

This guidance needed to be applicable to all kinds of nursing roles, which is why a cross-section of people were required to work on it. As a bed manager, I work with different departments and I’m aware of the practical advice the guidance should include. 

Knowing I made helpful suggestions boosted my confidence. Every rep who was consulted on the project had their views listened to. We all gained from each other’s experiences.

Our input is invaluable

Reps might find themselves in a difficult meeting, when things are heated, and they might want to suggest something, or get their point across. It can be tricky to express disagreement in a professional way. Ask. Listen. Act. offers phrases to help formulate questions and answers; the language staff might need in these situations. 

One thing I would say to reps and active members is: get involved. Unless you’re involved in projects and discussions, you won’t be able to change things, or lead on issues important to you. 

I know a lot of reps feel like they don’t have the time, which is understandable. I was lucky and I fought for my facilities time, but I’d recommend all reps push for the facilities time they need

Unless you’re involved, you won’t be able to change things

Our input to the RCN is invaluable. Sometimes people forget how much experience they’ve got until we start sharing it. You might remember something that happened to you, or to one of your members, and you can often contribute more than you think. 

I enjoy the process – I always get something out of it. This time around, all the conversations and meetings were held virtually, which made it even more accessible than before.

These projects take a long time, so it’s important that everyone is aware of the timeline – and virtual meetings allow for more flexibility. Sessions are about an hour, so you could squeeze them into your day. It was never overwhelming, nor did it detract from the work we were also doing.  

Improve your skills

Getting involved in projects can help reps professionally. You can improve your communication skills, and especially your networking skills. Taking in information from discussion groups and becoming aware of what you can offer the conversation are valuable experiences.

Something I’ve learned is that you can’t always say what you think, you’ve got to temper your views to achieve successful conversation and debate. It’s a good skill to have – it enables you to be open and honest, but also clear and professional in your language. It keeps these spaces safe. 

Anne Penny is Vice Chair of the RCN’s North Yorkshire branch.

Ask. Listen. Act. 

A working group of RCN reps came together to create the second edition of Ask. Listen. Act. It’s a review of the RCN’s Nursing Workforce Standards and aims to establish the link between working conditions and patient care in a way that will help people better understand trade union activity.

The resource can be used to start a conversation about rep experiences in the workplace and advise on how to work proactively with members, other trade unions and senior managers.

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