100 years of the Royal College of Nursing

In an age when women couldn’t vote and anyone could call themselves a nurse… it was our founders who came together to champion the nursing standards we have today. This pursuit of quality was recognised by the College of Nursing’s patron, Queen Mary, and in 1928, we were granted our Royal Charter – though we weren’t called the Royal College of Nursing for another decade. Our strength was soon rewarded with a coat of arms – the first time a women’s organisation had been given a shield, normally reserved for men. We ensured that nurses everywhere could access the information and training they needed to succeed. By 1930, more than 6,000 nurses were attending lectures at the College each year. In the 1980s, we began helping nursing students to qualify with degrees, and our groundbreaking research changed the way we care for our patients. And though time has passed, we’ve never let technology pass us by. Even before we became a trade union in 1976, our aim has been to protect our members and make sure they are treated fairly. Whenever wages or working conditions have been under threat, we’ve come together to demand a change. Whether it meant improving the working conditions of private nurses in the 1930s, or negotiating on behalf of NHS practitioners and independent sector staff, we have a long history of campaigning to make a difference for our members. Gradually, our membership expanded to include nursing staff from all across the UK, in all areas of nursing and grew to include men and health care support workers. As our branch structure grew, so did our membership. We now have the strength of 425,000 voices. And every year at RCN Congress individual members make themselves heard. Every day for more than sixty years, our stewards, safety reps and learning reps have helped members in their workplaces. And since 1998, RCN Direct has been there for members with issues in the workplace and questions about
nursing practice. What started with a few determined founders Is now a community of dedicated nurses, midwives, health care support workers and students – all using their unique expertise to make a difference in patients’ lives, every day and every night. It is their professionalism, their innovation and their spirit that directs the RCN today. We’ve spent the past 100 years driving nursing forward and we won’t stop now. Side-by-side with our members we will grow our profession, improve patient care and make nursing count. Together, WE are the voice of nursing.

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