“If you’d have told me 10 years ago that I’d be on the BBC asking Boris Johnson a question, I’d say ‘yeah right’,” says Mel Kerr, recently elected Vice Chair of RCN Council.
At the age of 27, Mel is one of the youngest people to ever hold this role in the RCN. Her youth, she says, can definitely be an advantage. “I'm in the prime of my career, or possibly haven’t even it hit yet. I can see where there are issues or room for improvement with fresh eyes,” she says.
She’s a resuscitation practitioner at United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust and has been an accredited RCN steward since 2017. She also sits on her trust's staff side and is the branch chair for North Lincolnshire.
“As a working nurse, I see the challenges first hand, and I’m genuinely not afraid to speak my mind if I think there’s something that needs to be said,” she says. “I feel that’s what the membership needs. They need someone who can be a voice for them.”
Another positive of my age is that I’m very adept with social media
Despite being an active member of the RCN since her early career, putting herself forward for Council is not something Mel had considered before.
“It was actually a friend who suggested it to me, and I thought: I do have the right attitude and insight to be able to bring something new to the role. I also felt that as a working nurse, I understand the day-to-day pressures members are under. Whether that’s looking after patients on the critical care ward, or picking up extra bank shifts, or struggling with financial issues, I get it,” she says.
“I don’t believe you can lead an organisation like ours properly without that sort of insight.”
Mel finds supporting members through difficulties at work or home the best part of her job, and the reason why she continues to go above and beyond in her contribution to the RCN.
“I get the same sense of achievement in supporting members as I do looking after critically unwell patients and seeing them go home at the end of their admission. I love that ‘I’ve done a good job today’ feeling, and that’s why I’m in nursing. I think that’s why we’re all in nursing,” she says.
New ways to connect
When she isn’t working at her trust or doing RCN work, Mel can be found trawling through social media platforms, finding useful insight she can bring to Council. “Another positive of my age is that I’m very adept with social media,” she laughs.
“When we haven’t been able to see members face-to-face over the past couple of years, platforms such as Twitter and TikTok have been a really useful tool to find out what challenges they’re facing,” she says.
But there are also positive stories that can be found too. “I use social media to build relationships with members, and equally they can reach out to me on my platforms too. This can help inform what I do on their behalf on Council.”
I want to see more people considering going for governance positions
Social media may also play a part in Mel measuring success in her role as Vice Chair. “I think you can get a feel for what people are thinking, a general consensus about our work at the RCN. Using social media, you can read the room,” she says.
Planning for the future
Mel’s really passionate about making Council more representative. “I think succession planning is the way to do this, and that’s one of my priorities for my term. To be a successful member-led governing board, we need to be fully representative of the membership,” she says.
As part of this, she wants to encourage people to nominate themselves for elections within the RCN. “I want to see more people considering going for governance positions. I want to see at least three or four candidates for each role and feel that sense of them fighting to get their point across, like hustings,” she says.
“If you feel like you haven’t got the time to take on a more active role, speak to Council and see what we can do about putting stringent time measures on your work schedule to ensure you get your facilities time,” she explains.
“I also think doing an ‘open day’ session for members to experience the inner workings of Council would be beneficial. Governance can be complicated, so seeing it working first-hand would definitely help make things clearer,” she says. “Get involved!”