Creating expert guidance

RCN forums play a key role in sharing members’ expertise by producing professional guidance. Alison and Sharon from the RCN Bladder and Bowel Forum explain how the College’s popular catheter care publication came about

With a reputation as a prestigious source of information, it’s vital that any guidelines produced by the RCN are as accurate and reliable as possible, reflecting current best practice.  

“Many of our documents are used nationally,” says Alison Wileman, Chair of the RCN Bladder and Bowel Forum (pictured above). “Trusts and other organisations tend to use our guidance to create their own policies, procedures and training packages to develop staff.” 

Forum members are often asked to take part in national projects or give evidence to groups such as the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Continence Care. “To preserve the RCN’s status, we need to make certain anything we produce is up to date, relevant and fit for purpose,” says Alison.

As the RCN’s original catheter care guidance had not been updated since 2012, the forum committee decided this should be a priority and began drawing up an action plan. “We started by looking at what members need to deliver quality patient care,” explains Alison.

We started by looking at what members need to deliver quality patient care

“Our aim was to support those who work in a variety of settings, including the NHS, the independent sector, acute settings and in the community. We also considered members who might be working in isolation.”

The work was led by Sharon Holroyd, forum committee member and a lead clinical nurse specialist with a background in urology. “Catheter care is something I feel passionately about,” says Sharon.

At the outset the forum members identified any obvious changes in practice, before looking at guidance produced by other national or international organisations. They also drew in as much professional help from the RCN as possible, including support on seeking financial sponsorship for the publication.

“As nurses, we wouldn’t have a clue how to go about finding a sponsor,” admits Sharon. “It was invaluable having that kind of back-up from the RCN.”

Sharing the load

Crucially, they tried to involve as many forum members as possible, inviting people to take part through the forum’s Facebook page. “We wanted it not just to be the committee that was involved in producing this document,” says Sharon. Their efforts attracted three or four members who helped write different chapters.

“Taking on a whole set of guidelines is a big responsibility, but this enabled members to have a taste of something they may not have had the opportunity to do before,” she says.

“It was also lovely for members to see their name in print, having their effort recognised, with something they could tell their employer about. There is also a real buzz when you see your name attached to a national document.”

RCN member Sharon

Sharon Holroyd

Time was among the key challenges. “Everyone always under-estimates how long something will take,” says Sharon. “It’s difficult but you do get a great sense of achievement when it’s finished.”

She also suggests not taking any criticism personally. “You need to de-personalise it,” she says. “You will get negative feedback and you have to recognise it’s not about you. Welcome all comments, whether good, bad or indifferent.”

Making a difference

Published last year, the guidance has proved extremely popular, becoming one of the 10 most-viewed publications on the RCN’s website. 

“A lot of people are telling us it’s their go-to advice, giving them basic information about what they should be trying to achieve,” says Sharon. “It’s also started a lot of conversations and made people think about their own practice.” 

Alison agrees, saying: “We’ve had a great reaction. It’s good to see it being referenced in articles and guidance produced by other organisations.” 

“We’ve promoted it at RCN Congress and on social media to raise the profile. The activity on Twitter has been really exciting. We think it’s a gamechanger and feel really proud of what we’ve achieved.”

Alison and Sharon also recognise the wider benefits of taking part in projects like this. “Personally, I feel it really helped me to develop my own skills,” adds Alison. “I think it also helped to bring us closer together as a committee.”

Words by Lynne Pearce. Picture of Alison by James Newell

Top tips for creating expert guidance

Spread the loadSpread the load, encouraging others to play a part, particularly forum members.

“I felt we got a more rounded result,” says Sharon. “We got a really wide range of expertise. It also gives members an insight into the forum’s work, making it more visible and open, helping nurture those who could take on committee roles in the future.” 

Seek expert help from the RCNSeek help from the RCN, including from those who deal with sponsorship, nursing advisers and importantly, the RCN Library.

“For our literature search, I sent the RCN Library staff key words,” says Sharon. “They did all of that work for us and it saved us a huge amount of time.”

Cover each UK countryRemember that you need to cover all four countries of the UK – unless you’re writing about one specific nation.

“Health systems, practices and protocols can all vary in each country, so work can take much longer than you might initially think,” says Sharon.  

Give clear deadlinesGive contributors and those feeding back clear deadlines and chase them up.

“But bear in mind that people are trying to do this work alongside their busy day-to-day roles and commitments, so keep them realistic,” advises Alison. “This was a big project and it took two years.”

Ask for feedback from a variety of sourcesWhen asking for feedback, make sure you include your forum members, other related forums and RCN learning reps, and don’t forget to include all four countries.

“Don’t take those less than helpful comments personally,” says Sharon. “Welcome peer review and listen. But protect your own feelings.” 

Think about the futureIf guidance is likely to need regular updating, consider staying digital rather than printing copies.

“It’s been a godsend, rather than having lots of printed copies which quickly go out of date,” says Sharon. “We’ve been able to react quickly and make any necessary changes.”

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