Congress firsts

Nursing’s liveliest and most action-packed conference is done and dusted for another year and health care assistants were at the centre of the action

You hear a lot from the RCN about Congress. It’s often referred to as nursing’s “flagship” conference. But let’s be honest. Who has the time or inclination for conferences – flagship or not? And if you’re going to make the effort you want to make sure it’s relevant to you.

But when people make the effort to go to Congress once, they get the bug. They find themselves signing up for it over and over again. It’s not just relevant, it’s addictive. So with nearly a year to plan for the next Congress, take a look at what some HCA first-timers thought this time around.

‘A very friendly and social event’

Aled Evans attended Congress for the first time and voted on behalf of members in Cardiff

Up until recently I hadn’t had anything to do with the RCN but I was encouraged to come along to local meetings and before I knew it I was at Congress voting on crucial issues on behalf of members in the Cardiff and the Vale area. 

I came along hoping to do some networking and perhaps share some experiences about coping with the transition from HCA to nurse as I’m currently studying part-time for an adult nursing degree.

It was a very friendly and social event. There’s so much to take in but everyone was so welcoming. You don’t need to worry about not knowing people here – you soon will!

It was far more relaxed in the debating hall than I thought it would be and the debates were both relevant and interesting. In fact they were my personal highlight. A speaker recounted her personal experience of harassment in one debate which really moved me.

Voting was quite a responsibility. Sometimes it was easy to make a decision but other times I had to listen really hard to both sides of the argument to ensure I was making the right decision on behalf of the other members in my branch I was voting for. I never felt afraid to vote against something. I just wanted the decision to be right.

I found people getting up with points of order a little frustrating at times but that didn’t spoil it for me at all. And although I didn’t get up to speak myself, I was tempted, even as a first-timer. In fact first-speakers get a rousing reception so there was nothing to fear there.

I loved the evening social events too. I met Vaughan Gething at the Wales reception. He’s the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Services in the Welsh Assembly. Him being there really showed me what a big deal Congress is.

I enjoyed Congress so much. My only complaint is that I was absolutely exhausted at the end!

‘I wanted to get my message across and that’s what I did’

David Burnside addressed Congress for the first time this year

There were a number of additional items added to the agenda on the day I was speaking so I had to wait until the final debating session of the day before I could have my say.

I presented a discussion on behalf of the RCN Health Practitioner Committee on the impact that hospital bedrest can have on a patient’s health. It’s such an important issue and I think the whole nursing team should remember the impact it can have.

I wanted to get across the point that it just takes some simple actions to make changes. Helping patients get out of bed, get dressed and eat their meals at a table could make all the difference.

I was so nervous but lots of people got up to speak in the debate, including one very experienced member who spoke from her perspective as a patient. I had to respond at the end – I’d been scribbling notes throughout the debate so I knew what to say.

It was brilliant to hear everyone’s feedback and reflecting on my experience of speaking in front of thousands of people, I really enjoyed it and it wasn’t actually that scary. I wanted to get my message across and that’s what I did. If you’re tempted to speak at a future Congress, my advice is to be confident and speak about something you feel passionately about.

Planning ahead

Brian Murphy, RCN Council Member for Health Practitioners and Chair of the RCN Health Practitioner Committee, is already planning next year’s Congress and wants to see even more HCAs at the event.

“This year’s programme for HCAs was really strong but we are making even bigger plans for next year,” he says. “I want 2019 to be the year that HCAs really become a force to be reckoned with at the RCN’s most important event.”


HP Committee at Congress 2018

Members of the RCN Health Practitioner Committee were instrumental in designing this year's Congress programme for HCAs

Further information

Chat to your Nursing Support Worker Committee member if you want to know more about what Congress can offer you.

Find out more about RCN Congress.

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