Using evidence

Find out how the RCN Library and Archive Service can help you support members

When you’re representing a member, no matter the situation, it pays to ensure you have all the tools at your disposal to achieve the best possible outcome for them.

One way to strengthen your case, according to Senior RCN Officer John Wilkinson, is to come armed with published evidence to support your arguments – and the RCN can find it for you.

“If I look at a situation and see there’s a plausible way I can help a member to articulate their point using evidence, I’ll contact the library team and ask them to do a literature search,” says John.

“I tend to find employers are impressed by it,” he adds. “It isn’t just a Google search, it’s something done by a qualified librarian at a credible organisation. A responsible employer should welcome that as an intelligent way of getting a fair outcome.”

Library staff member helping a customer find something on a laptopBy way of example, John refers to a situation where he was working with a member who was accused of mishandling a patient during an epileptic fit and causing bruising while restraining the patient. John asked library staff to find evidence about the side effects of sodium valproate, a drug prescribed to control the patient’s epileptic seizures.

“We found four papers which linked the drug with abnormal bruising or with abnormalities of platelet function,” he explains. “I quoted the research as part of the evidence when presenting the case and the member was exonerated.”

Asking the right questions

John says asking for a literature search “couldn’t be easier” and encourages reps to consider it, although he does sound a note of caution.

“You need to know the right questions to ask the library team to get the most out of it,” he says. “There’s also a process of disclosure to follow, where you need to submit any evidence you intend to use in a meeting to the employer in advance. So if this is something you think could benefit you in your rep work, talk to your local RCN officer in the first instance.”

While John also stresses a literature search will only come in handy every now and then, and is by no means applicable to every case, he says it’s always worth having in the back of your mind, adding: “It helps employers view the RCN not just as a trade union, but as a credible clinical source too.”

Words by Tom Metcalf

Search me!

Kate Clark, the RCN library’s Information Manager, gives some advice to help you find what you’re looking for.

  • Head to and find “I’m looking for” search box on the library homepage. It works a bit like Google but will find books and articles.
  • Type in the words most relevant to your case. In the case described above, for instance, sodium valproate side effects.
  • When you have searched, limit your results on the left hand side of the screen – for example, to journal articles and to full text online.
  • If you don’t find what you're looking for, try alternative search words – for example, try valproic acid for sodium valproate. You could also try using one of the databases, such as CINAHL, available under the Books and Journals tab of the library homepage. Library staff will be happy to advise you about the best sources for your search, and about your search strategy.
  • We have a range of video tutorials that demonstrate how to use the library search, CINAHL and other databases. Find them on the RCN’s YouTube channel.

Contact the library on 0345 337 3368, email or visit

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