Some of our wonderful activists may find that they end up as part of their local RCN branch executive team alongside their other RCN rep or committee roles. These branch roles can include branch chair, secretary or treasurer.
While this can be rewarding, it can place additional pressure on these individuals. Together, members of the branch executive team have to think of ideas to attract members to attend their meetings. So, how do you go about putting together a successful branch meeting when you're running out of time and ideas?
This was a scenario that challenged me in my early days of running a branch, but experience and a splash of inspiration led me to make a list of what’s worked well. I’ve also worked closely with neighbouring branches to find out what’s been effective for them.
Locally, we now split our branch meetings into two halves with branch business first, followed by an educational session or guest speaker, marketed as an opportunity to provide evidence of professional development for NMC revalidation.
Here are my top 10 ideas that you might like to try with your branch if you need some inspiration.
Talk about health and wellbeing
Invite a guest speaker to talk about mindfulness, strategies for looking after personal mental health and wellbeing, or coping strategies for when work pressures can feel overwhelming. The RCN Counselling Service may be able to help if given enough notice. Most trusts now employ psychologists and counsellors too, so it’s worth approaching your local trust as well.
Pick a clinical theme
Some of our most well-attended meetings have been those with a clinical theme. We ask a clinical nurse specialist to talk about topics like long-term pain management, wound care, diabetes or sickle cell management.
Grill a politician
Local MPs are always keen to speak to nursing staff, especially near election time, and this can be an ideal opportunity to raise nursing challenges and build better working relationships or awareness about RCN campaigns. Read more advice on inviting MPs to your branch meeting.
MPs are always keen to speak to nursing staff, and this can be an ideal opportunity to raise nursing challenges
Offer financial planning advice
Advice on pensions, retirement, money management and investments has proved popular at our branch with some members asking for follow-up meetings with the speaker. We source speakers through the RCN’s affiliated financial advice service, Lighthouse. Find out more.
Invite a high-profile speaker
Many of the College’s senior figures have had very interesting nursing careers. Why not try to book the RCN President, Deputy President, your RCN Council member or the RCN Chief Executive & General Secretary as a guest speaker at one of your meetings. Your local RCN office should be able to point you in the right direction to organise this.
Learn more about employment law
The RCN represents hundreds of nursing staff each year in litigation and NMC cases. We’ve previously invited staff from the RCN’s legal team to speak on topics such as avoiding the pitfalls of using social media, informed consent, restraining patients or your rights if you’re assaulted at work.
Make use of your RCN connections
With more than 900 members of staff, many of whom are specialists in their field, there is a wealth of talent freely available at the RCN for branches to draw upon. At our branch, we have been visited by RCN Diversity and Equalities Coordinator Wendy Irwin, our local learning and development officers for themed evenings and staff from the RCN library. Think about your audience too. For example, if you have students attending, how about an education session on career development and CV writing?
You could also offer members the chance to find out more about current RCN campaigns and discuss issues that are important to them, such as fair pay or safe staffing.
Find an external specialist speaker
As well as looking for speakers from within the RCN and its networks, you could think about inviting an external specialist speaker. For example, someone from your local Citizens Advice Bureau or an emergency planning officer.
Celebrate Nurses’ Day
If your branch meeting falls within the first half of May, you could try to organise an event to mark Nurses’ Day, which takes place annually on 12 May. Local directors of nursing, politicians and RCN staff could all be potential guest speakers.
Make it topical
Back in 2004 a radiologist at our trust was in Thailand when the Boxing Day Tsunami happened. Along with her friends, she spoke about her ordeal at a packed branch meeting. We also had a robust debate when assisted suicide was on the political and nursing agenda.
Don't forget to spread the word
Remember to use social media, the branch communication centre and ask your local RCN communications team to promote your event, as well as displaying information on workplace noticeboards and your local intranet. Give members adequate notice and send a reminder the week of the event.
If you’re an RCN branch executive, your local RCN office can offer you support and advice on organising events and branch meetings.
All RCN members can attend their local branch meetings. Find your branch and what’s happening in your area.