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Pride is my overwhelming feeling when I think back to the RCN’s industrial action in Northern Ireland. I felt so proud to stand with all the other members, with everyone there for the same reasons – to achieve a fair deal and protect patient care with safer staffing. 

I’d joined the RCN at Queen’s University’s Freshers’ Fair, when I started my degree in adult nursing the year before. I signed up straight away because I knew the RCN was passionate about making positive changes for nursing. I felt this was the best way to make a difference and fight for what was right for members and patients.

It was a major achievement for the whole of the RCN 

I became an active member almost immediately, first as a student ambassador and then joining the RCN Students Committee, so I was aware of the possibility of industrial action from the very beginning. Before the historic ballot took place, there were a lot of discussions and planning, then it all came down to the members, who were asked to make their decision. 

A breakthrough

When the results were announced – with a majority vote in favour of industrial action – it felt like a breakthrough. Finally, we were going to stand our ground and people would have to listen to us. Many of us felt we’d reached the stage where there was nothing else we could do – our good nature and our vocation had been exploited enough. I felt very proud that we’d come together as RCN members and achieved this action. It would be the first time in our history that nursing staff would go on strike. 

Lynsey McLaughlin and group NI 630x420

Lynsey pictured back row, third from the right at Lagan Valley Hospital in Lisburn

As students, we couldn’t strike ourselves, but we could certainly support the industrial action, including joining picket lines on the days when we weren’t on placement or studying. As the future of the profession, people were glad to see our faces, and know they had our backing. 

There was great community spirit and camaraderie, especially when people drove by and tooted their horns in support. They were telling us we weren’t alone. I was so delighted when we reached an agreed settlement. It was a major achievement for the whole of the RCN.  

I would encourage every student to play their part in any future action 

Being involved had no negative impact on my studies. In fact, I think it was all positive, helping me to understand the realities of nursing much better. I had a lot of conversations with different people, explaining what the action was all about and what we were trying to achieve.

I would encourage every student to play their part in any future action. Your RCN student rep will be able to advise on exactly what you can do, but don’t be afraid to participate, be active and be vocal. We’re all in it together. 

More information

Find out more about the Fair Pay for Nursing campaign and read our industrial action strike ballot FAQs that include information for students.

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