Although the pandemic means RCN Congress won’t be the same event members are used to, Chair of Congress BJ Waltho says one big advantage is that members will be able to take part in any of the debates or fringe events online.
“Congress is so important and the more people that join in, the better,” says BJ. “Now, if members can’t join us for the whole three days, they can still dip in and out. It opens it up to more members from across the UK, which is what we’ve always wanted.”
This year, for the first time, the RCN is planning for Congress to be a hybrid event. Voting members will be able to attend in person in Liverpool should they wish to, and if the rules around COVID-19 allow it, and all other members will be able to participate online.
BJ says: “For me, the joy of Congress has always been members getting together and we’ve had to make some compromises this year. The situation is still evolving, and we’ll keep members updated as we develop plans, but please keep checking the Congress website for updates too.
“It’s been a very difficult 18 months for everybody, so the most important thing is that we still have the opportunity to come together, whether it’s in person or online.”
For me, the joy of Congress has always been members getting together
BJ adds: “We’re going to be reliant on a new platform for online participation, which is exciting and innovative but it’s also unknown territory, so my plea is that members bear with us.”
The Congress agenda was published in June and BJ says the Agenda Committee hopes it offers something to appeal to every single member.
“We’ve tried to make sure we cover as many different areas of nursing as possible,” says BJ. “Of course, we still have room for emergency agenda items too, which I think is quite pertinent now. Agenda items were submitted by April so much has already happened since then. Nursing is changing at such a speed now – the emergency items allow us to capture those current issues.”
Loud and proud
BJ wants members to be “loud and proud” about what the issues in nursing are and what matters to them as nursing staff. She says that Congress offers the perfect opportunity to do this.
“Nursing staff need to be proud about what our profession has achieved, and we need to be loud about what needs to change,” explains BJ. “That’s what I love about Congress; no matter what the debate is about, members get the message across – whether it’s safe staffing, recruitment or fair pay – they tell the press and public what’s important for nursing staff right now.
“It’s also a chance for members to inform the work of the College. RCN Council – their elected members – are listening. The RCN is a member-led organisation and Congress is one of the best opportunities to get really involved and make sure your voice is heard.”
Members will have more flexibility and opportunities to get involved. You can make Congress what you want it to be
Fluid and dynamic
As well as debating important nursing matters, BJ says Congress is also a chance to talk about what we need to celebrate in nursing and for members to see both sides of the College – the trade union and professional sides – in action. “Alongside the debates, the fringe part of Congress is about sharing good practice and knowledge,” she says. “This year, we’ve been able to extend this offer because we’re not restricted by space and numbers.”
Our new-look Congress fringe, titled the Integrated Education Programme, will bring together fringe events, sponsored sessions, student and nursing support worker events, and health and wellbeing activities, plus a full exhibition experience, all on one virtual platform.
“Overall, Congress will be a much more fluid and dynamic experience,” says BJ. “Members will have more flexibility and opportunities to get involved with the events that they want to take part in. You can make Congress what you want it to be.”
Get the latest on Congress
The situation with COVID-19 restrictions and large gatherings continues to change. It may be possible to offer places to non-voting members in Liverpool once the situation becomes more clear, dependent upon what is possible at the venue nearer the time. For the latest information, visit our Congress website.
Here, you can also find our full Congress agenda, information about our Integrated Education Programme, submitting emergency agenda items and registration, which is open now.