Nursing studies

RCN congress: what’s in it for you?

Nursing student Georgina Ledwith, who attended congress for the first time last year, outlines the benefits to students of participating in the biggest event of the nursing calendar. 
Students congress

Nursing student Georgina Ledwith, who attended congress for the first time last year, outlines the benefits to students of participating in the biggest event of the nursing calendar.

I joined the RCN in the first year of my nursing degree. I am now in my third year of training and last year attended congress for the first time.

RCN congress is the largest event in the UK nursing calendar. Thousands of nurses, nursing students and other health professionals come together to learn, develop professionally and share nursing practice. Attendees also have the opportunity to inform the RCN agenda and influence nursing and health policy through debate.

Last years congress was held in Glasgow in June. As a first-time attendee I wasnt sure what to expect, so it was great to meet

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Nursing student Georgina Ledwith, who attended congress for the first time last year, outlines the benefits to students of participating in the biggest event of the nursing calendar. 

I joined the RCN in the first year of my nursing degree. I am now in my third year of training and last year attended congress for the first time.


Congress is a chance to make your mark. Picture: John Houlihan

RCN congress is the largest event in the UK nursing calendar. Thousands of nurses, nursing students and other health professionals come together to learn, develop professionally and share nursing practice. Attendees also have the opportunity to inform the RCN agenda and influence nursing and health policy through debate. 

Last year’s congress was held in Glasgow in June. As a first-time attendee I wasn’t sure what to expect, so it was great to meet other nurses on the train also heading to congress. Former RCN nurse of the year Amanda Burston gave me a great piece of advice when she told me to keep an account of my experiences, which I did. 

Congress offers a comprehensive programme for nursing students, who gain an overview of the RCN and an introduction to its student committee. There are also interactive sessions specifically for students. Last year these included raising concerns, blood management and tissue donation, and building resilience. 

Smiling faces

Students are also encouraged to get involved with the debates in the main hall. I wanted to speak during the debate about nurses’ pay, but felt nervous as it was my first time. 

After encouragement from RCN deputy president Rod Thomson, who proof-read my speech, I felt I could share it from the stage, but there was a long queue of people wanting to speak and not enough time for everyone to be heard.

The person in front of me kindly said I could take her place. I later discovered this was former RCN president Andrea Spyropoulos, and was humbled that she stepped aside to let a student speak. 

Walking up to the microphone with all eyes on me felt surreal, but it also felt good. When I got to the end of my speech and looked up, there was a sea of faces smiling back at me. There’s nothing quite like it – thousands of like-minded people listening to what you have to say and there to cheer you on, not shoot you down. 

The RCN values students, and congress is your chance to make your mark. I will be attending this year as a member of the RCN student committee, and hope to see you there. 

The benefits of attending RCN congress 

  • Be part of the biggest event in the UK nursing calendar.
  • Meet nurses from a variety of different specialties and backgrounds to share ideas about nursing practice. 
  • Meet nursing students from across the UK and share experiences. 
  • Help shape the RCN agenda by engaging in key debates on nursing practice, public health, employment issues and health reforms.
  • Improve your confidence and self-esteem by speaking during the debates and attending student-specific interactive sessions. 
  • Network with exhibitors, including potential employers. 

RCN congress 2017 will be held at the Liverpool Arena and Convention Centre from 13-17 May. For more information go to the Congress 2017 website 


Georgina Ledwith is a third-year nursing student at Buckinghamshire New University

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