Exploring the RCN: Royal College of Nursing

Are you a nurse, midwife, or healthcare assistant looking for a community that supports your growth and development? The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) is the world’s largest nursing union and professional body, offering a wealth of resources, networking opportunities, and advocacy for its members. In this blog post, we’ll delve into the history, benefits, and services provided by the RCN, empowering healthcare professionals to thrive in their careers and contribute to the betterment of patient care.

royal college of nursing

Short Summary

  • RCN is the world’s largest nursing union,

    providing comprehensive support, representation,

    and advocacy for nurses.

  • RCN offers healthcare professionals access to a range of benefits and services designed to promote professional development.

  • RCN provides many opportunities to join and contribute,

    such as attending events, workshops, campaigns,

    or engaging with other professionals.

Understanding RCN: The World's Largest Nursing Union

The RCN was established to provide comprehensive support, resources, and representation for nurses worldwide, focusing on various aspects of nursing, including emergency care. Today, it serves as both a professional body, executing initiatives related to nursing standards, education, and practice, and as a trade union, advocating for nurses’ rights, working conditions, and equitable remuneration.

As the world’s leading nursing union and professional body, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) represents over 450,000 nurses, midwives, healthcare assistants, and students in the United Kingdom and internationally, making it the largest nursing organisation globally. Its impact extends far beyond the UK, as it actively participates in international nursing forums and supports nurses in countries such as Korea, where it helps improve nursing practice and patient care.

Access to the vast array of services provided by RCN is available through membership, which is open to:

  • Nurses

  • Student nurses

  • Midwives

  • Healthcare assistants

  • Nursing students

By joining RCN, members gain access to valuable resources, legal support, and networking opportunities that can significantly enhance their careers and professional development.

UK NHS Nurse

Empowering Student Nurses and Nursing Students

RCN recognises the importance of nurturing the next generation of healthcare professionals. It provides student nurses with guidance on various academic matters, such as re-sits, appeals, complaints, placements, and raising concerns, as well as offering advice and support. To facilitate their learning and development, RCN offers a range of educational resources for student nurses, including online courses, webinars, e-learning modules, and access to journals, books, and other resources within a supportive community of nursing professionals. These resources not only enhance their academic journey but also prepare them for a successful career in nursing.

Moreover, RCN offers networking opportunities for student nurses, such as:

  • Mentoring

  • Student forums

  • Student-led events

  • Online communities

  • Support networks

These opportunities allow students to connect with experienced professionals, share ideas, and learn from one another, ultimately shaping their career trajectory. RCN also provides career guidance, including job search advice, career planning, and job interview tips, along with access to job postings and career development resources.

Professional Body for Registered Nurses and Midwives

As a professional body, the RCN plays a crucial role in maintaining high standards of practice and ensuring professional development for registered nurses and midwives. It provides comprehensive member support services, including free and confidential assistance on a range of topics related to nurses’ and midwives’ home and work lives.

In addition to personal support, RCN offers resources to facilitate professional growth, such as the newly registered nurse handbook, which provides valuable insights and advice for nurses transitioning into their new roles. Members also have access to legal and employment advice, helping them navigate any challenges they may face in their careers.

The RCN’s commitment to upholding high standards of practice extends to its efforts to shape healthcare policies and guidelines. It actively engages with policymakers and stakeholders to ensure that the nursing profession’s concerns are addressed, ultimately contributing to the betterment of patient care and the healthcare system as a whole.

Health Care Assistants and Support Roles

Healthcare assistants and other support roles are essential team members in the healthcare system, and RCN extends its support and resources to these professionals as well. It offers a range of services, including:

  • Membership benefits

  • Professional development resources

  • Career support

  • Online learning tools such as the First Steps program

Healthcare assistants who become RCN members can access the organisation’s library and information services, discounts on products and services, and legal advice services. These benefits empower healthcare assistants to excel in their roles and contribute to the overall quality of patient care.

Professional development resources available to healthcare assistants include online courses, webinars, and conferences, allowing them to enhance their skills and knowledge in their respective fields. The First Steps program, in particular, provides online learning modules and resources tailored to healthcare assistants, ensuring they receive the support they need to thrive in their careers.

Trade Unions and Advocacy

As a trade union, RCN represents and advocates for nursing staff in the UK and internationally, making decisions on trade union functions and activities on behalf of its members. It is committed to protecting the rights, pay, and working conditions of nurses, ensuring their voices are heard and their concerns are addressed.

The RCN’s role as a trade union is pivotal in furthering the nursing profession. As the largest nursing trade union and professional body globally, it has the power and influence to bring about significant changes in policies, working conditions, and remuneration for nurses.

By actively advocating for nurses’ rights and working closely with policymakers, RCN plays an essential role in shaping the healthcare landscape. It ensures that the nursing profession continues to grow and evolve, ultimately contributing to the improvement of patient care and overall healthcare outcomes.

Joining RCN: Benefits and Services for Members

Becoming an RCN member at the royal college opens the door to a wide array of benefits and services designed to support healthcare professionals in both their personal and professional lives. Members gain access to valuable resources, such as online learning tools, journals, and books, that can enhance their knowledge and skills.

One of the standout services provided by RCN is RCN Direct, a telephone advice line available to members, offering confidential advice and support on various topics, 365 days a year. This service ensures that members have a reliable source of guidance whenever they need it.

Moreover, membership with RCN provides:

  • Access to networking opportunities with other professionals

  • Staying informed about the latest advancements in the nursing field

  • Access to resources and support

  • Cultivating relationships with other professionals in their field

These connections can prove invaluable for career growth and development.

Collaborating with RCN: Opportunities for Involvement

Collaborating with RCN offers numerous opportunities to join and contribute to the nursing community’s growth and development. Some of these opportunities include:

  • Contributing to the formation of NICE guidance

  • Joining forces for events, workshops, publications, and campaigns

  • Engaging as a student or professional member

Membership with RCN can be obtained by signing up online or contacting the RCN membership team.

Once a member, the opportunities for involvement are virtually limitless, allowing individuals to contribute their expertise and passion to the betterment of the nursing profession. Connecting with other professionals through collaboration offers numerous advantages, such as:

  • Remaining informed about the latest advancements in the nursing field

  • Accessing resources and support

  • Cultivating relationships with other professionals in the field

By engaging with RCN, healthcare professionals can play an active role in shaping the future of the nursing profession and improving patient care.


The Royal College of Nursing is the world’s largest nursing union and professional body, offering a wealth of resources, support, and advocacy for healthcare professionals. From student nurses to experienced registered nurses and midwives, RCN empowers its members to excel in their careers and contribute to the improvement of patient care.

Membership with RCN provides access to valuable resources, networking opportunities, and professional development programs, ensuring that healthcare professionals remain at the forefront of their fields. By collaborating with RCN, individuals can play an active role in shaping the future of the nursing profession and improving healthcare outcomes.

With its rich history, strong global presence, and unwavering commitment to its members, the Royal College of Nursing is a powerful ally for healthcare professionals. Whether you’re just beginning your journey in nursing or seeking to enhance your career, RCN offers the support and resources you need to thrive in the ever-evolving world of healthcare.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does the RCN stand for?

The RCN stands for the Royal College of Nursing, a professional body and largest nursing union in the world.

What is the difference between RCN and UNISON?

The RCN is a professional body representing nursing staff, while Unison is the UK’s second largest union for both public and private sector workers. RCN has around 420,000 members, whereas Unison has about 1.3 million members.

What is the largest nurse union in the UK?

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) is the largest nurse union in the UK, with more than 435,000 registered nurses, midwives, health care assistants and nursing students as members.

It is also the world’s largest nursing union and professional body.

What is the phone number for RCN?

For RCN assistance, call the helpline at 0345 772 6100. Open 8.30am to 8.30pm daily, including holidays.

What benefits and services do RCN members receive?

RCN members benefit from resources, legal support, networking opportunities, professional development programs and advocacy, making them part of a larger community of nurses.

This provides them with a range of benefits, such as access to a wide range of resources, legal support, networking opportunities, professional development programs and advocacy. This helps them stay connected to the larger nursing community and stay up to date.