Student ambassadors can play a crucial role in supporting RCN campaigns, say Scott and Gemma
“Campaigning and influencing is a key aspect of the student ambassador role,” says Scott Doughty, vice chair of the RCN Students Committee. “Student ambassadors drive the voice of the RCN at their universities. Part of the role is about trying to instil that fire and passion you have in fellow students and colleagues.”
Scott has worked with student ambassadors and RCN staff to co-develop the student ambassador role, which was launched at the end of 2019, and is now working to make sure the role is embedded across the UK and that student ambassadors are well-supported.
The student ambassador role descriptor includes a section on campaigning, and highlights ways student ambassadors can encourage other student members to get involved in RCN campaigns and ensure their experiences help shape them.
We can make a difference now by campaigning, talking about these issues to other students and using our voice
Scott says: “When it comes to the campaigning aspect, you’re not going to make changes straight away. Issues like fair pay and safe staffing affect us as the future nursing workforce. But equally, it’s about making changes for future students so it’s important that we get involved.
“Making sure there is safe staffing so students can have a good-quality practice experience and making sure nursing staff are paid fairly so we can have practice assessors and supervisors on the ward to support us – as students we need to be thinking about all these things. We need to think about what it could mean for the next generation of student nurses.”
Gemma Mowbray, a first-year nursing student and RCN student ambassador in Edinburgh, says: “It’s important for students to be aware of the issues facing nursing staff and how far from being resolved some of these issues are. These are things we’ll be facing when we’re qualified. But we can make a difference now by campaigning, talking about these issues to other students and using our voice.”
Since starting her course in September last year, Gemma has only visited her university’s campus once, so having the opportunity to connect with fellow student ambassadors has been important to her. With support from RCN staff, student ambassadors from across Scotland now meet online once a month.
“It’s a chance to share the things we’ve been doing at our different universities,” says Gemma. “It also allows us to discuss new ideas and take a collective approach.
“It’s a funny time to try and campaign and get more involved because you don’t have the opportunity to all get together in person, but there are still lots of ways I can support students and the RCN’s campaigns, and it’s been really rewarding.”
Gemma and Scott both agree that one of the benefits of the student ambassador role is the flexibility to put different ideas into practice and that social media is more important than ever during the pandemic.
With the RCN’s Fair Pay For Nursing campaign gathering pace, students in Scott’s region have decided to produce a video. As a committee member, Scott also has a regular slot in the Northern region’s quarterly member newsletter. He offers different student ambassadors across the region the opportunity to write something each issue, highlighting how they’re supporting students to campaign.
Spreading the word
Scott says: “One of the simplest things any student ambassador or student can do is share campaign posts on social media. Don’t just like it, make sure you share it with your followers and the message multiplies. It can have a big impact.”
Last year, as part of the RCN’s Fund Our Future campaign, Scott also contacted his local MP and arranged a meeting. He used the opportunity to discuss both Fund Our Future and the RCN’s Fair Pay For Nursing campaign, pointing out that the two are closely linked.
One of the simplest things any student can do is share campaign posts on social media
Gemma says that materials from the RCN have helped her spread the word about the pay campaign too.
“I’ve asked students to put up Fair Pay For Nursing posters on noticeboards during their clinical placements and we’ve also ordered stickers and badges,” she says. “For student ambassadors, your clinical placements are a chance to speak to nursing staff about the RCN’s campaigns and learn about their experiences.”
Below: Scott Doughty
In some ways we can roar more loudly and have a stronger voice while we are students
Support to succeed
Gemma says that being a student ambassador has enhanced her university experience so far, but that you need to be self-motivated in order to get the most out of the role. “You need to go out, make connections and make things happen,” says Gemma. “But there is support. If you have an idea, the RCN will support you.
“The role can also open a lot of doors to other opportunities. Through my involvement with the RCN as a student ambassador, I’m now a member of the RCN Lothian and Borders branch committee which is another way I can make sure the student voice is heard.”
Scott says that as well as allowing student members to get more involved during their course, the student ambassador role has been designed to support students who want to develop into future leadership roles.
“We’ve set up an online training resource which can help you progress and links into the RCN’s rep roles if student ambassadors are interested in taking on such a role in the future,” says Scott. “There is plenty of support out there. Student ambassadors can link in with their student committee representative or their branches and local RCN offices for support.
“I’m really keen on encouraging students to attend their local branch meetings because I feel that sometimes that student voice is being lost at a local level and it offers another way of getting involved with what’s happening in campaigns locally.”
Scott adds: “Student members can play a crucial role in RCN campaigns. In some ways we can roar more loudly and have a stronger voice while we are students, and we need student ambassadors to help harness that strength.”
All student members can get involved and take action to support our Fair Pay For Nursing campaign.
Visit our Fair Pay For Nursing pages to find out how to support the campaign on social media, and download or order campaign materials.
Become a student ambassador
Are you passionate about nursing and making a difference? Do you have the energy and enthusiasm to make positive changes? If so, our student ambassador role is for you.
Scott says: “Student ambassadors are an important link between students in their university and their country or region’s student committee member. They help to raise and identify issues affecting student members across the UK, and they also provide support to fellow students at a local level, signposting to RCN resources and support.”