Advice and development

Students and nurses must show a united front

As nursing unions and activists battle to defend the profession, we cannot afford to remain spectators in the political arena, say Dann Gooding and Lucy Mason.

As nursing unions and activists battle to defend the profession, we cannot afford to remain spectators in the political arena, say Dann Gooding and Lucy Mason. 


Picture: iStock

This year we have seen bursaries for nursing students scrapped and replaced with student loans, and the continuation of the 1% cap on nurses’ pay. The government has also decided to fund the NHS at a level that means cuts in services. If we do not tell politicians how all this is affecting patients and nurses on the front line, how will they know? It’s not enough for just a handful of activists to speak up. Nurses and nursing students need to show a united front.

Optimism

We were struck by the optimism among students at RCN congress in Liverpool. Congress, and the college’s Scrap the Cap campaign, highlighted for us the growing need for nurses to be active in politics. If we are not politically engaged then the NHS will continue to expect nurses to work on nothing but goodwill.

Many students don’t know how to get involved politically – it isn’t always encouraged or taught at universities – and the demands of their courses can be a barrier. But most do seem to want to engage in the big issues. Meanwhile, a significant number of registered nurses seem to have lost faith in their unions’ ability to influence government and change policy. We have heard, and read on social media, many negative views from nurses such as ‘my union will never strike, they never have before’.

Get involved

In our experience, students who understand and are aware of politics in nursing are passionate about it and those who aren't passionate are less aware of what's going on. It is not about a lack of trust in their unions.

Union leaders seem to be afraid to say that not all nursing union members are pulling their weight. Some people say that nurses can’t get involved in politics because they're working so hard to protect patients from the effects of staffing shortages. But what about patients in the future? If we don't step up and fight for our profession, the crisis will only get worse.

A 2005 study on nurses’ political involvement concluded that, as patient advocates, nurses cannot continue to be spectators in the political arena. That holds true today, more than ever.

Dann Gooding is a children’s nursing student at London South Bank University and an RCN student information officer. Lucy Mason is a children’s nursing student at the University of Birmingham and an RCN student information officer

 

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