Making a difference: My role as a national Royal College of Nursing representative

Nursing student Louise Hyett-Collins gives an insight into her passion for advocacy and her work as a Royal College of Nursing volunteer.

I started my nursing journey as a mid-life career change to support my mental health after 20 years as an English and sociology teacher in Wales, Devon and Cornwall. Already interested in the sociology of health, a period working in adult social care brought me into contact with a district nurse whose compassion and dedication inspired me to pursue nursing. I wanted to contribute something meaningful to someone else’s life and I love the mental stimulation of academic study.  

Transitioning to nursing from teaching, I noticed parallels in some of the issues facing the professions. Volunteering as the student voice representative for my cohort seemed only natural as a keen advocate with an educational background. This role involves advocating for my peers and signposting to additional support and I have thoroughly enjoyed meeting and discussing issues with so many of my cohort. Additionally, I am a member of UHI Department of Nursing and Midwifery student staff consultative committee and the undergraduate committee, both of which allow me the opportunity to influence student experiences.

Union membership and the support and member voice that allows has always been important to me. I helped organise NUS protests in London against the introduction of tuition fees in the 90s whilst studying for my A Levels and took strike action during my teaching career. Joining the Royal College of Nursing as a nursing student seemed an obvious decision and, learning about the issues facing both nurses and student nurses and listening to the concerns of my peers, I felt I needed to help make a change.

As a result, I signed up as a Royal College of Nursing student ambassador which again involved championing the student voice as well as signposting and supporting members to services and resources, campaigning on student related issues and encouraging recruitment. I took the campaigning element of this further, becoming a voting volunteer which involved encouraging other union members to use their vote in the recent ballot on industrial action over nurses’ pay and conditions. These roles gave me a wealth of information and depth of understanding of the issues and challenges student nurses face and provided the impetus to see what more I could do in a practical manner.

Since then, I am privileged to have been elected as one of two seat holders representing Scotland on the national Royal College of Nursing students’ committee. Simply put, my role involves speaking to nursing students and student ambassadors about the issues affecting them and sharing this information at committee meetings every few months. This information helps us to identify common issues experienced by nursing students nationwide and set priorities for the committee for the year.

Committee members join sub-groups to work on areas of particular knowledge or interest such as student finance or support for neurodiverse students on placement. I am excited to attend the Royal College of Nursing congress in Brighton as a member of the student’s committee to experience debates, keynote speakers, fringe events, exhibitions and networking. Moreover, I hope to take to the podium seconding a Royal College of Nursing Scotland resolution around the use of student nurses to cover staffing gaps; time to see if leading all those assemblies will pay off on a larger stage!

Ultimately, I have a passion for nursing, for nurse education and for advocacy. I would love my membership of and activities with the Royal College of Nursing student committee to encourage other students to become more active in the Royal College of Nursing and use their voice to improve the student experience. As an LGBTQ+ nursing student, I’m also aware of prejudices others like me encounter on placement from both staff and patients and aim to use my time on the committee to challenge such attitudes and to be a role model to other LGBTQ+ students.

Upon qualifying next year, I hope to secure a role in community nursing with my ultimate long-term goal being a position where I can influence nursing education. Obviously, I anticipate supporting the Royal College of Nursing in whatever capacity I can throughout my career.

To find out more about nursing courses at UHI, visit

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