Behind the scenes at the RCN

Three nursing students complete their elective placement at RCN headquarters

Fadumo Indayare RCN student

“I thought my placement at the RCN would be a good opportunity to get an insight into a different aspect of nursing. One useful thing I’ve learnt about is the RCN Library. I didn’t even realise it was here before, let alone that it’s the biggest nursing library in Europe. I’ll definitely be coming back next year when I’m writing my dissertation.”

Nazifa Miah RCN student

“I decided to do my elective placement at the RCN because I wanted to do something completely different and non-clinical to broaden my experience. As a student, I’ve never had the occasion to think about the practicalities of being a registered nurse, such as pay issues, pensions, my rights, or how I might need to protect myself. It really opened my eyes to all of this and how important it is to be a part of the organisation.”

Jannat Kasule RCN student

“I’ve been a member of the RCN since I signed up at the fresher’s fair but didn’t really know anything about the organisation other than that it’s a union. I found learning about the steward roles the most interesting thing. I really like the idea of having a diverse career where I can develop as a clinical nurse but also have a different side to my job involved in nursing issues.”

Eight things you (probably) didn’t know about the RCN

  1. The RCN celebrated its centenary last year and there have been moments of Hollywood glitz and glamour along the way. In 1950, the RCN put on a premiere of the Florence Nightingale film The Lady with the Lamp, which was attended by celebrities and royalty to raise money for the RCN education fund.

  2. The RCN’s very first public pay campaign was in 1962; the start of many lobbying campaigns for fair pay and patient safety, the most recent being the Scrap the Cap campaign.

  3. RCN HQ has its very own ghost. There are multiple reports of seeing the “grey lady” who is said to be the ghost of Lady Barrington, a former resident who died on the grand staircase after a fall. 

  4. RCN HQ is home to the largest nursing library in Europe (pictured below), with many fantastic resources available to all members. The crowning jewel, though, is Florence Nightingale’s very own Bible.

  5. The RCN produces four different magazines; the main one, RCN Bulletin, was seen in its first form as early as 1920, when it was sent out as a quarterly newsletter to members.

  6. Back then, there were only around 100 members (the organisation was actually started with just 34) but now the RCN has more than 435,000 members across the UK.

  7. The student section of the RCN was originally called the Student Nurses Association and was established as an affiliate organisation in 1925 (Princess Margaret was the patron). It became fully integrated with the main College in 1968.

  8. The College has always had extensive royal support and a regular visitor at HQ was Queen Mary, who would drop in for afternoon tea. She was said to be such a fan of the cake served that she would send someone for takeaway if she couldn’t make it in person.

Eight things you really should know about what the RCN provides

The RCN has a whole range of services to support you on your journey to becoming a nurse:

  1. One-to-one careers coaching and online career resources.

  2. Funding, benefits, housing and budgeting advice.

  3. Accredited counselling service.

  4. 35 professional forums.

  5. Peer support group and immigration advice.

  6. The largest legal team of any union in the UK.

  7. A UK-wide programme of professional conferences and events.

  8.  The opportunity to become an RCN student information officer (SIO) or to stand for election for the UK Students Committee.


The RCN is currently looking at expanding the elective placement programme for next year so keep an eye out for further information from your university.

Words by Leah Williams

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