28 INTERVIEW such as those that occurred during the pay deal settlement, don’t happen again? We’ve gone through the report with a fine-tooth comb, pulled out the comments and put forward an action plan. One of the issues is that our members don’t engage – and we need to find out why. We have some wonderful activists, both on the professional side and the trade union side, but that’s only a small number of our members. If you look at our elections for Council seats, only around 10-15% of members vote, if we’re lucky, and I think that’s the case in a lot of organisations. We need to get them to engage, but more importantly, to find out what they want from us and how to supply that. If it transpires that they don’t want to be engaged, that’s okay too. We’re not telling them they must. But we need to ensure that if or when they want to, they can be heard. People perceive nursing as a female profession. We need to change that, starting in schools The turnouts for some recent votes in the RCN have been very low – 4% for the EGM in September, 6.9% for the presidential elections, 18% for the pay deal. By comparison, Unison managed 30% and Unite 27% for their pay deal votes. The turnout is incredibly low but not unusually so. If you look at local elections and other organisations similar to our own, we get similar figures. That seems to be how it is at the moment. We want to increase it and that’s why we’re asking our members ‘what do you want from us? What can we do differently to meet your needs?’ What do you think are the biggest challenges facing your members now? Safe staffing. I work as a health visitor, and out there with the community nurses, other health visitors, I can see they are worn out. Patients with extra wide or feet? recommend As Council member for the West Midlands, I go around the trusts in the area. They tell me they have no staff. I ask if they have filled in an incident report – I tell them that every time they are worried about safety they can do this, and they say ‘we haven’t got the time’. They are just about surviving. They’re getting to the end of the day and working over their shifts. You can do that for a day or two, but you can’t go on like that day after day. Do you feel nursing as a profession should make more of an effort to promote its image to male undergraduates? Absolutely. It’s an area we’re working on. There are campaigns that are starting to recruit men into nursing. It is a still a female-oriented profession and is perceived as such by the public. But if you look in certain areas of nursing there are more men – mental health and learning disability nursing, for example. One of the things we’ve been talking about, and it may have started already, is going into schools. We need to get them when they’re young, because children’s attitudes are fixed – doctor equals male, nurse equals female. We know that isn’t the case, but if you ask a boy ‘would you like to be a nurse?’, he’ll say no. People can perceive it as a female occupation. Here’s another thing we’ve noticed. If you qualify as a staff nurse, you go to band 5. You may not get onto a band 6 for years – you could be on band 5 for a very long time. But in other services I’ve managed – physiotherapy, occupational therapy, podiatry, most of the therapy services – it seems to be easier to get a band 6 or band 7 post than it is in nursing. Is that because nursing is perceived as a female occupation, and therefore the thinking is ‘you don’t really need the money’? I can assure you we do. Why do you think it’s easier for those other professions to move up from band 5? The band 6 posts aren’t there for nursing, compared with the other therapies. What do you think of the nursing associate role? I’ve worked with them. There are some fantastic nursing associates, and there’s a huge role for them. There’s enough work for everyone. But nursing associates can’t be used to replace registered nurses because the training is different. And it’s not supposed to be. Are nursing associates eligible to become RCN members? We’ve got a group looking at membership categories. Nursing associates are registered, but it’s a debate as to whether they are considered part of the registered membership. This is one of the reasons why we are looking at our entire membership status offering, pulling it apart and putting it back together. We are hoping to take that process to the RCN Congress this year and have it debated. NEW SEASON STYLES & COLOURS One of the Council’s roles is to appoint a chief executive. Do you have anyone in the pipeline? Will you ask acting chief executive Dame Donna Kinnair if she will take the job permanently? Dame Donna is doing a great job. We’re in the process of recruitment for the role. STYLES SHOWN: Angus, Molly, Kama TO R EQUEST COPIES OF OUR CATA LOGUE CALL 01458 447275 OR VISIT cosyfeet.com/prof Would you like to see the chief executive role change? I think it already has. The way Dame Donna approaches it is different from previous chief executives. She’s wanting to engage much more with members. I think that’s her natural style, it’s not just because of the EGM. These roles tend to evolve all the time – we’d worry if they didn’t change.