Reflecting on some of the challenges RCN reps are facing during the pandemic, Vicky Brotherton says it’s important for reps to work together and be mindful of their own wellbeing

Not being able to hold face-to-face meetings with members has been tough for reps. When you’re in the room, it’s easier to judge someone’s body language and get a feeling for what they want to happen. In online meetings, especially when other people like staff from HR or managers are present, it’s more difficult to sense when a member might want to take a bit of time out and it’s harder for us to give that extra support that members sometimes need.

I think reps are struggling more with their workloads now too and I’m concerned that could continue as members who’ve been shielding start to come back into the workplace. This is one of the reasons why it’s so important for reps to work together.

As the lead steward in my trust, I ensure all our reps get together regularly to talk about how many cases we have and to discuss current issues. We work out if someone has too much work or could do with some support, and we make sure our local RCN officer is informed too.

Don’t be afraid to talk about how you’re feeling and to raise any concerns

Don’t be afraid

If you don’t have a team of reps in your workplace, it’s important to talk to your local RCN officer about your caseload or work. Don’t be afraid to talk about how you’re feeling and to raise any concerns. They’re there to support reps in the way we would support any member. 

We also need to remember that the support available through the RCN and employers is there to support reps too. Don’t put a shield around yourself and say: “I’m a rep, I can cope”. It’s OK not to be OK or to need some support. As reps, we’re not invincible and we have feelings and needs that we must consider too.

RCN steward and safety rep Vicky Brotherton

Vicky Brotherton

Time to talk

Our region has been holding regular Time to Talk events so members can hear from our RCN Council member, board chair and regional director and share their experiences in a safe space. We’ve been holding similar events at a branch level every other month too.

I pulled together a quick presentation with information about RCN services and other sources of support to share at one of the meetings and with local reps. It’s useful to remind ourselves of what’s available. 

I've found a regular, more social catch-up with fellow reps to be a good de-stressor

The RCN website also has lots of resources to support wellbeing, such as mindfulness videos for nursing staff and advice on self-care.

I’ve found a regular, more social catch-up with fellow reps from across my region to be a good de-stressor. We meet online during an evening or weekend to have a chat and hear what’s going on across the region.

Vicky is lead steward at her trust, a safety rep and RCN Plymouth branch chair.

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