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“Nursing wasn’t something I thought about until the fifth or sixth year of high school – it came to me out of the blue,” says Sam Moffat, the most recent student to join RCN Council, the RCN’s governing body. "I remember my mum saying I’d make quite a good nurse. And I thought yes, of course, that’s what I want to be doing.”

Now, Sam is a nursing student at Dundee University and, despite the challenges that the nursing profession faces in 2023, he remains hopeful about the future and optimistic about the potential for students to bring about positive change.

I think: how would I want a member of my family to be treated? 

As his first venture into nursing, Sam emailed his closest hospital to ask about work experience and soon found himself in neurosurgery at the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh. “I instantly loved it. Then I got up onto the ward and enjoyed making connections with people. I’ve always been quite chatty – talking to people and seeing their journey really inspired me.”

In 2020, straight after leaving high school, Sam got a job as a care assistant, a role which he has carried with him throughout university. “Working as a carer in both care homes and the community, I’ve learnt the importance of interprofessional communication and the relationship between nursing and social care.”

While working in a care home at the height of the pandemic, Sam says he saw the impact on people when they couldn’t live normally or see family members.

“Some of the best bits of being a student on placement in the community or a hospital aren’t always the obvious learning bits – sometimes it’s the time you get as a student to actually be with patients, to sit with them, help them with things like their hair and make-up or shaving, and make them feel more like themselves,” he says.

“I always think: what would I want my family member to be treated like? When you’re registered there is less time to do the little things that actually make a big difference.”  

Nursing students need to look out for each other and stand up for ourselves

Sam says the role of Student Member of Council is not one he takes lightly. “Although I’m actually quite new to the RCN, I’ve always been into activism – in school I was involved with the GSA (Gender and Sexuality Alliance) and helping to make school more inclusive,” he says. “Driving change has always been important to me and when I feel passionately about something, such as nursing, I feel motivated.

“We are told throughout university that nurses should be advocates for their patients, but who advocates for us? Helping students to feel more supported and empowered is crucial for me and I feel incredibly lucky to have a voice as a member of RCN Council that I can use for all.”

Sam’s three priorities for students

1. Tuition fees

"Being in Scotland, I’m in the position where I get a bursary and free tuition. Why aren’t other governments doing this? We keep being told we need nurses and then we’re asking people to go into a job with huge debt hanging over them, all while working through a cost-of-living crisis. I’m raising the flag on this. It’s time tuition fees were funded for nursing students by the UK government."

Find out more about the RCN’s Fund Our Future Campaign which is calling on the UK government to provide full tuition fee support and maintenance grants which cover the true cost of living for all nursing students in England.

2. Ensure all nursing students feel valued 

"There’s quite a lot of worry and confusion amongst students right now about the career we’re going into. We started off being clapped and now more and more people are leaving the profession. It’s not taken my passion away but it has put a niggling doubt in my mind and I know others feel the same. 

"Nursing students need to come together, look out for each other and stand up for ourselves. Students feeling valued within an organisation is crucial and I want to make sure students feel that way at the RCN."

3. Boost engagement 

"Being quite new to the RCN, I look back and think: why didn’t I make use of all the RCN resources before? There is so much support for students – from counselling services to the amazing library.

"I want to ensure students know what’s on offer as part of their membership and encourage them to get involved with the RCN. It’s not my voice I’m trying to make louder, it’s every student voice. If you too want change for students and nursing as a whole, do get involved with the RCN. That’s the best way to make it happen.

"You can follow me on socials and if you want to find out about the importance of being a member and how we are working for you as a student. Never hesitate to reach out to me."

Sam is a final-year nursing student at the University of Dundee. His term of office on RCN Council began in January 2023 and will run until December 2024.

Find out more

RCN Council: what does it do?

  • RCN Council, the RCN’s governing body, provides leadership and direction for the organisation. It ensures that the RCN always has a clear vision and strategic plan, acts as a guardian of the RCN’s assets and holds management to account.
  • RCN Council has 17 members: one each from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and one from each of the nine English regions (East Midlands, Eastern, London, North West, Northern, South East, South West, West Midlands, Yorkshire & the Humber). They are elected by members in their country or region. The remaining five members are: President and Deputy President of the RCN, Chair of RCN Congress, a nursing support worker member representing health care assistants and assistant practitioners, and a student member.

Fund our future

  • The RCN continues to campaign for tuition fees for nursing students to be funded by the UK Government and for maintenance grants to reflect actual student need. We also want to see greater support for the existing workforce, with nurses being valued with fair pay.
Words by Sophie Goode. Images by Rob Anderman

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