Five minutes with BJ Waltho...

As the deadline for submitting Congress agenda items approaches, we catch up with the new Chair of RCN Congress BJ Waltho to find out what the Agenda Committee is looking for.

What are your hopes for Congress 2019?

I hope, as I do every year, that people who attend feel as though it’s been a really good use of their time; that they’ve learnt something, they’ve networked and most importantly, that they’re reinvigorated. 

We know that nursing today is not an easy job so I want Congress to give people the energy and enthusiasm to carry on their fantastic work.

Obviously, I also hope I do a good job because it’s my first Congress as Chair and Stuart’s (McKenzie, former Chair of RCN Congress) shoes are hard to fill. 

The agenda is like a furnace that provides an energy for the whole of Congress

How important is the agenda?

The agenda is “it”. It’s the framework upon which the success of everything else hinges. If it’s thought-provoking, inclusive, and generates good discussion and debate then that will have a knock-on effect. The fringe events will benefit, the speakers will benefit. The agenda is like a furnace that provides an energy for the whole of Congress.

What do you and the Agenda Committee look for in an agenda item? 

First and foremost, the issue needs to be current. It should be something that affects us or our patients and the care we provide. We’re looking for issues that appeal across the whole spectrum of nursing. 

If you're thinking about something that needs discussion on a national level, get your submission in now

The biggest mistake you can make is to think that someone else will submit an item on an issue because people are talking about it. 

That’s not the case so, if you’re thinking about something that needs discussion on a national level, get your submission in now. 

My dream is for every single entity to send at least one submission. It would be a first but it would be brilliant.

What are your tips for submitting agenda items?

Keep it simple. Try to make the proposed wording as short as possible and then provide the background in your supporting information.

Don’t assume that the Agenda Committee will know about your topic, especially if it’s slightly unique to your field of practice or the country you live in. That’s why your supporting information is so important – because it gives you the opportunity to tell us what we need to know. 

Keep it simple. Try to make the proposed wording as short as possible and then provide the background in your supporting information

How does it feel to be Chair of Congress? 

I don’t take the role lightly. It’s a huge responsibility to carry because so many people are giving up their time and I really want them to feel like their investment is worth it.

That said, it’s the highlight of my nursing career. I’m coming towards the end of my career now, so it’s a nice way to end.

It’s been a difficult year for the RCN and a lot of people have lost some faith in the College. I want Congress to restore some of that by showing everything that’s good about the RCN and its members. Congress is a chance to hear about all of the phenomenal work members do and to recognise the difference that they make to their patients every single day.

More information

The closing date for agenda item submissions was 6 January 2019.

Find out more about the Congress agenda

Shaping the RCN’s work

Not only do Congress agenda items generate lively debate during the event, they also shape the future work of the RCN and help bring about meaningful change. Here are just a few examples:

  • In 2017 the UK Safety Reps Committee led a Congress debate on the issue of assaults. It was decided that the RCN would lobby for tougher criminal sanctions for people who assault nursing staff and earlier this year, thanks to tireless campaigning from RCN members, the law in England and Wales was strengthened. Read our story From Congress to Constitution
  • The RCN's new guidance on supporting nursing staff with dementia in the workplace is a direct result of a resolution put forward by the Older People’s Forum at Congress 2017. Take a look at the guidance
  • The RCN’s publication Fair Care for Trans People helps nursing staff to respond to the needs of patients who identify as transgender and was initially created in response to a Congress resolution. Read more about providing fair care for trans people in our story Changing Bodies and Lives

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